Mantis Shrimp: The Quickest Killers in the Animal Kingdom
The mantis shrimp is an interesting creature: It flaunts a whole rainbow of colors, has some of the best working eyes in the animal kingdom, and ruthlessly kills its prey with extreme precision and power. There are over 550 species of the ocean dweller, but of those hundreds, the formidable crustaceans have just two primary methods for maiming their prey: smashing or spearing.
As PBS's Deep Look series explains in the video above, smashers have a strong club, which they use to literally punch animals to death (or bust open a shell). Their tiny boxing glove moves through the water at 50 mph—faster than a .22-caliber bullet. These clobberers also have a simple spear that's sharp enough to jab their enemies in turf battles, but pro spearers have an advanced harpoon with a serrated blade. They hide in the sand and wait for an unsuspecting fish to pass by so they can leap out and attack before dragging the unsuspecting animal to its death. Yikes.
The mantis shrimp combines this pure power with an incredible sense of sight. While humans have two pupils and three color receptors, the mantis shrimp has six pseudopupils and 12 receptors to better destroy their enemies. As the video explains, "Mantis shrimp can perceive the most elusive attribute of light from the human standpoint: polarization. Polarization refers to the angle that light travels through space. Though it’s invisible to the human eye, many animals see this quality of light, especially underwater."
This skill is great for more than just killing dinner: The special vision lets mantis shrimp communicate with each other and stake out territory. Scientists have even borrowed this technique to find injuries and even cancer with polarized light. Just another example of how Mother Nature can be both beautiful and terrifying.