Mantis Shrimp – The Aliens in My Front Yard

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I’m a little tired of doing the travelogue thing every day and I’m a little homesick for my warm, wet, salty front yard. I’ve been working on some of my underwater images. I noticed that I’ve never done a post on mantis shrimp, surely some of the most alien-like creatures in my yard:

Mantis ShrimpThe shot above is a reworked version of one that appeared in A Nasty Customer and Fancy Pants. It’s a Odontodactylus scyallarus if it matters to you.

Here’s another shot from a different angle and different lighting conditions:

Mantis ShrimpI’m pretty sure that all of these images are the same species, but I don’t have my books with me.

It is rare to see a mantis shrimp in the open. They are very shy. I managed this shot when one was so surprised to see me that it froze for a moment before scuttling into its burrow:

Mantis ShrimpTheir eyes are mesmerising. They follow you and when you look into them you seem to be looking into a deepness that is difficult to describe. They have the most complex eyes of any animal.

They feed by clubbing or spearing (according to the species) their prey with their raptorial claws. You can see the clubbing behaviour in a very cool clip on YouTube.  I had one of these in an aquarium tank in our house:

Mantis ShrimpI fed it bits of frozen raw chicken. I would drop a chunk in the water and the mantis shrimp would come up to investigate. Then it would club it a couple of times, making sounds like firecrackers, and carry it back to its burrow.

Once when we had visitors, I decided to hand feed my mantis shrimp. It was a big mistake. It clubbed my thumb and split it open. It was so quick that I didn’t realise that I was hurt until I saw the blood streaming from my thumb.

Then came the PAIN!

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2 Responses to “Mantis Shrimp – The Aliens in My Front Yard”

  1. Steve Goodheart Says:

    Happiness is any post on mantis shrimps! I just love these amazing creatures.

    Jan, these are some very nice images…I know, because I still have dozens and dozens of images from my research when doing an “extreme science” feature on them for a 5th grade textbook.

    I always wanted to have one in an aquarium, but these beasties are so ferocious and aggressive, they pretty much have to have the tank to themselves.

    In my research, I read about a diver watching a spearer take out a deadly blue-ring octopus. In dim light, the octopus was sneaking up to engulf the mantis, but the mantis was on to it, with it’s astonishing eyesight, (which you mention) and surprise attacked the octopus….speared it right between the eyes into the brain and instantly killed it…..whoa! I also saw a video of a clubber holding off a very large octopus; this octopus was smart, too, and it kept it’s distance, trying to reach out sneakily into the mantis shrimps hole…but every time the tentacle got close, the mantis would zip out and lay a heavy shot on it….you could tell it really hurt…after about three whacks, the octopus wisely decided to go find something less tough to eat…as the octopus slithered off, the mantis displayed victoriously at its home, as if to say, “OK, who’s next? You want some of this?” 🙂

    Pound for pound, the mantis shrimp as got to be one of the toughest hombres in the ocean, if not on Earth. And, one of the most beautiful, especially the peacocks you are showing here.

    Thanks! Totally made my day. I may have to dig up all that research and do a “grown-up” extreme science at my site, now that you’ve inspired me with your images.


  2. MadDog Says:

    Steven, I can’t remember if I told the story of when I had a mantis shrimp in my aquarium. First, of course, all of the other fish started disappearing. Then I got in the habit of shaving off bits of frozen chicken to feed it. It would “kill” the chicken bits and make noises like firecrackers going off. I’ve read the the sound is caused by cavitation because the motion is so fast. It got BIG. Once, when I had visitors, I decided to show off by hand-feeding it. I got a spear in my thumb and a tank full of pink water for my trouble. There are some fantastic YouTube videos of mantis shrimp attacks. Check ’em out.