Biomechanics

Deadly strike mechanism of a mantis shrimp

This shrimp packs a punch powerful enough to smash its prey's shell underwater.

Abstract

Stomatopods (mantis shrimp) are well known for the feeding appendages they use to smash shells and impale fish. Here we show that the peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) generates an extremely fast strike that requires major energy storage and release, which we explain in terms of a saddle-shaped exoskeletal spring mechanism. High-speed images reveal the formation and collapse of vapour bubbles next to the prey due to swift movement of the appendage towards it, indicating that O. scyllarus may use destructive cavitation forces to damage its prey.

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Figure 1: The mechanics of a stomatopod strike.
Figure 2: The mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus strikes a snail.

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Correspondence to S. N. Patek.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Methods

These supplementary methods describe the calculations used to approximate the energy storage and release required by the mantis shrimp’s strike and to demonstrate the need for a specialized spring in the mantis shrimp’s raptorial appendage. (DOC 40 kb)

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Patek, S., Korff, W. & Caldwell, R. Deadly strike mechanism of a mantis shrimp. Nature 428, 819–820 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/428819a

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