The mantis shrimp - hands down the coolest animal on earth. It moves so quickly that the water around it boils!
They commonly reach 30 centimetres in length, though in exceptional cases have been recorded at up to 38cm. The largest ever caught has a length of 46cm, in the ocean near Fort Pierce, Florida of USA!
There are more than 400 species of mantis shrimp. They come in a variety of colours, from shades of brown, to bright neon colours, and are among the most important predators in many shallow, tropical, and sub-tropical marine habitats.
Despite being common, they are poorly understood as many species spend most of their life tucked away in burrows and holes.
They are commonly separated into two distinct groups determined by the manner of claws they possess:
- Spearers are armed with spiny appendages topped with barbed tips, used to stab and snag prey.
- Smashers, on the other hand, possess a much more developed club, and a more rudimentary spear (which is nevertheless quite sharp and still used in fights between their own kind); the club is used to bludgeon and smash their meals apart.
The mantis shrimp has one of the most elaborate visual systems ever discovered.
The midband region of its eye is made up of six rows of specialised ommatidia. Four rows carry up to 16 different photoreceptor pigments, 12 for colour sensitivity, others for colour filtering.
The vision of the mantis shrimp is so precise that it can perceive both polarised light and multispectral images.
Their eyes (both mounted on mobile stalks, and capable of moving independently of each other) are similarly variably coloured, and are considered to be the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom!