Float Like A Butterfly, Sting Like A Shrimp

Fact: The mantis shrimp has the most powerful punch in the animal kingdom.

The humble mantis shrimp is the boxer of the seas, with a single punch carrying about the same force as a 22-calibre bullet.

These shrimp have club-like appendages, which are enriched with minerals to make them extremely hard, which they can fling at up to 80kph. But muscle contractions alone cannot generate such huge speeds: the secret is a series of ‘biological springs’ which act like a spring-loaded catapult.

Combining speed and strength means these shrimp are able to inflict huge damage: mantis shrimp can punch clean through metal, and have even been known to pummel giant crabs into submission by breaking through their thick shells. While the main function of these clubs is to capture prey, those unfortunate enough to wander too close to a mantis shrimp burrow will often find themselves on the receiving end of a savage beating.

Their punch is so fast that it actually produces a small amount of light. As these fists of fury move forwards, they create an area of low pressure behind them which results in a small air bubble forming (a process called cavitation). These bubbles then collapse, which results in a huge release of energy – in the form of heat and light.

The energy released from these bubbles also strikes the victim, resulting in a kind of ‘one-two’ combo and can be powerful enough to kill prey even if the initial punch misses its target. Mike Tyson eat your heart out.

‘Another one of Mr Shaunak’s Little Bites of Science’
Image under Creative Commons license, taken from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mantis_Shrimp.jpg

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