Tremble Before the Spearer and the Smasher
March 3, 2003 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Fear the Stomatopod! Assuming the meral spread position is one way in which the mighty mantis shrimp avoids having to use its formidable weaponry. They come in two flavors -- the "spearers," who strike their prey with a superfast, barbed claw, and the "smashers," who wield a club said to pack the force of a .22 caliber bullet. Today these little-known gladiators got some unusually high-profile press for turning up at record size in an unlovely environment.
posted by BT (8 comments total)
These are some really amazing creatures:

"The strike of one of the larger smashers (25 cm long Hemisquilla ensigera) has been estimated to produce a force approaching that of a 22 caliber bullet"

"The mantis shrimps are also world-renowned as having the world's most sophisticated vision. According to Dr Justin Marshall, the stomatopod eye "contains 16 different types of photoreceptors (12 for colour analysis, compared to our 3 cones), colour filters and many polarisation receptors, making it by far the world's most complex retina." Mantis shrimps can thus see polarized light and 4 colors of UV (ultraviolet) light, and they may also be able to distinguish up to 100,000 colors (compared to the 10,000 seen by human beings)."

Nature at its weirdest. Thanks for the great link!
posted by rosswald at 11:17 AM on March 3, 2003

[this is very good.] Thanks BT!

What started you tracking down crazed carniviorous shrimps?! (They're not shrimps exactly, I see, but still... was it this?)
posted by zpousman at 12:09 PM on March 3, 2003

I ate one of these, once. It wasn't so great. That, however, might have had something to do with the fact that I had no idea what I was ingesting, and I could only think to myself, "Hmmm, this appears to be some sort of giant ocean centipede." In my defense, I was trying to order tako, but my awful Japanese pronunciation betrayed me.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:52 PM on March 3, 2003

I saw the Times article this morning, and couldn't believe the Ala Wai canal was in the national news. I spent 4 (awesome) years of my life teaching at a private school that coincidentally stretches along most of the north (non-Waikiki) side of that canal--it's no joke about canoers getting warts and infections from the water there. Thankfully, there's not much of a smell that comes off the canal, so the school just put up a tall fence along the way to block the view. On the Waikiki side of the canal, it's mostly very cheap hotels, and housing for a lot of the itinerant workers who staff the hotels, etc.--as close as you come to a "bad" neighborhood in that area of town.
posted by LairBob at 1:12 PM on March 3, 2003

In the aquarium world, mantis are generally pretty poorly regarded. As i recall, they are called 'thumbsplitters' for their tendency to seriously injure any appendage that comes within range. This can be problematic as they can be in a tank totally without the users knowledge.

i've also been told that if, for whatever reason, you want to keep one it's best to keep them in a tank of their own. i guess they tend to destroy other fish.
posted by quin at 1:24 PM on March 3, 2003

And they're cute, too. (This particular shrimp is 13 cm long. That's a big shrimp.)
posted by jokeefe at 1:27 PM on March 3, 2003

zpousman -- the Times article linked above piqued my curiosity, but without the "blueboard" site I wouldn't have thought it quite worthy of MeFi post. I'd never heard of another marine organism that makes its living by clubbing its prey to death.
posted by BT at 1:34 PM on March 3, 2003

here is the article the local newspaper ran about it, dated February 14th.
posted by scottymac at 5:58 PM on March 3, 2003

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