Snapping shrimp make flashing bubbles

The cavitation bubbles created by shrimp in stunning their prey have some surprising properties.


Snapping shrimp produce a loud crackling noise1,2 that is intense enough to disturb underwater communication. This sound originates from the violent collapse of a large cavitation bubble generated under the tensile forces of a high-velocity water jet formed when the shrimp's snapper-claw snaps shut3 (Fig. 1). Here we show that a short, intense flash of light is emitted as the bubble collapses, indicating that extreme pressures and temperatures of at least 5,000 K (ref. 4) must exist inside the bubble at the point of collapse. We have dubbed this phenomenon 'shrimpoluminescence' — the first observation, to our knowledge, of this mode of light production in any animal — because of its apparent similarity to sonoluminescence5,6, the light emission from a bubble periodically driven by ultrasound.

The light flash (not visible here) is indicative of the high temperature and pressure in the bubble interior at the point of collapse.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 2: Sound and light from a snapping shrimp (Alpheus heterochaelis).


  1. 1

    Everest, F. A., Young, R. W. & Johnson, M. W. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 20, 137–142 (1948).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Schmitz, B. in Physiology of the Crustacean Nervous System (ed. Wiese, K.) 521–533 (Springer, Berlin, 2001).

  3. 3

    Versluis, M., Schmitz, B., von der Heydt, A. & Lohse, D. Science 289, 2114–2117 (2000).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    McNamara, W. B., Didenko, Y. T. & Suslick, K. S. Nature 401, 772–775 (1999).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Brennen, C. E. Cavitation and Bubble Dynamics (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 1995).

  6. 6

    Crum, L. A. Phys. Today 47, 22–29 (1994).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Ohl, C. D. Zur Dynamik und Lumineszenz von Kavitationsblasen. Thesis, Georg August Univ., Göttingen (1999).

  8. 8

    Baghdassarian, O., Tabbert, B. & Williams, G. A. Phys. Rev. Lett. 83, 2437–2440 (1999).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Detlef Lohse.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Lohse, D., Schmitz, B. & Versluis, M. Snapping shrimp make flashing bubbles. Nature 413, 477–478 (2001).

Download citation


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing