Peacock Mantis Shrimp — He’s Baaaaack!
Tiny, deadly and gorgeous. That’s the peacock mantis shrimp, and we just placed one on exhibit in our Splash Zone galleries.
You’ll have to work a bit to see it. It’s housed — alone — in a small aquarium inside the Coral Crawl tunnel in Splash Zone. But it’s well worth the effort!
This is the first time we’ve hosted a mantis shrimp since 2001 when one of them stowed away inside some coral rock and earned us international headlines and live CNN coverage. (There’s something compelling about a “killer shrimp” terrorizing other animals in the children’s area of an internationally known aquarium.)
They pack quite a punch
Since then, we’ve been wary of deliberately introducing a mantis shrimp — and for good reason. Aquarists and scuba divers refer to them as “thumb-splitters” because their claws pack a punch as powerful as a .22-caliber bullet.
Those same claws can shatter a clam shell, and crack open a crab or shatter glass. They can bring down a blue-ringed octopus or a fish. The claws are made of a material so hard it can deliver 50,000 blows between molts - without breaking. It’s being studied by scientists as a model for crafting super-strong body armor for soldiers.
And it moves its claws so fast that they turn water into plasma and sound into light.
“A thermonuclear bomb of light and beauty”
But that’s not the end of the story, as celebrated cartoonist Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal explains in his online love-letter, “Why the mantis shrimp is my new favorite animal.”
He starts by examining the eyes that make them unbelievably effective hunters. Their vision is so sensitive that a mantis shrimp can see in both infrared and ultraviolet spectra, and uses 16 color receptor cones (compared to just three for humans).
Inman observes: “Where we see a rainbow, the mantis shrimp sees a thermonuclear bomb of light and beauty.”
It’s that combination of experiencing a world of transcendent beauty — and then turning around and pounding its prey to smithereens — that fascinates Matthew Inman.
We hope you’ll be fascinated, too, at the chance to see a peacock mantis shrimp face to face — on the other side of shatterproof acrylic.