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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.

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

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Correspondence to Detlef Lohse.

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

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