Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Ultimate Predator

Make no mistake, I'm still furious about this update, I loath it. But my precious blog still looks normal enough for the time being. I'm just having a hard time articulating to you that if they change the editor it would be tantamount to taking one of the few things I love in life away from me.

But for now, lets just pretend I'm not having a meltdown and focus on the real reason why we all came here: to choose the next master race. Yes, if you remember the post about lobsters I mentioned another crustacean who could make world domination work like a cashmere sweater. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Mantis Shrimp:

"Anyone else feeling fabulous?" -Mantis Shrimp

That psychedelic fiend up there is the Peacock Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) and it is a proven scientific fact that it is one of the most bedazzled invertebrates in the ocean today. Mantis shrimps are neither real shrimps nor mantids, but belong to an unrelated order called Stomatopoda. In general, stomatopods are known for three things; their incredible eyesight, their powerful claws and being too disco for words.

First of all, the claws. Mantis shrimps are very active hunters and spend most of their time strutting around coral reefs like they own the place, wantonly putting an end to gastropods, bivalves and other crustaceans with their deadly claws which are tiny doomsday devices for all intents and purposes.

See, there are about four hundred species of stomatopods and they all fall into two groups depending on what kind of claws they have: spearers and smashers. Spearers have thin, spiny claws that end in barbed tips. They use these like harpoons to mercilessly skewer their opponents, harpoons wrapped in barbed wire and glitter.

(An uncharacteristically bland specimen displaying the spears of his people.)

Smashers on the other hand have huge claws like brightly colored maces or maybe disco balls. They use these to bludgeon other sea-beasts to a bloody pulp with. There's even been reports of aquarium owners being injured by the cruel morning stars of mantis shrimps who've snuck into their tanks during the transfer of fish from one into another, earning them the nickname thumb splitters. So yes, you can add espionage to the list of things stomatopods are experts at, along with crushing their foes and color coordination.

(A female peacock mantis shrimp with smasher appendages. Neon red is in season obviously.)

A final word on their weapons: they unfold and swing their raptorial claws to land a lethal blow. Essentially the shrimps punch their prey. They punch right through the hard shells of mollusks, disintegrating them into a fine powder and they do it with blinding speed. As far as I know, they strike with an acceleration of about 10,400 gees. That's 2080 times more force then an average drag racing car accelerates with. To put that in perspective their claws accelerate at a rate of 23 meters per second, the acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet. They have the fastest punch of any animal on Earth.

If that's not enough to kill you, your fancy fish and everyone else in the aquarium, don't worry, because they punch with so much force so fast that they create tiny bubbles between their weapons and the surface they're striking against. These bubbles collapse, producing a shockwave that can stun or outright kill their prey. Y'know, assuming they weren't already pulverized into a fine paste.

But that's not all, when these bubbles collapse, they do so with so much force that it creates a phenomenon called sonoluminescence, releasing small bursts of light at extremely high temperatures, somewhere on the magnitude of several thousand kelvins. They punch with so much force they make the water radioactive.

Finally, their eyes. Mantis shrimps have some of the most complex eyes on Earth; not only are they both mounted on mobile stalks that can move independently of each other, but they can see the entire spectrum from red to ultraviolet. It's not currently believed that they can see infrared light but you know they can. They so can.

They have compound eyes like flies, giving them higher resolution vision in high light environments like shallow coral reefs. Each eye is composed of about 10,000 ommatidia, each one specialized for things like color sensitivity, hyperspectral vision and even the detection of polarized light, something puny Humans are all but incapable of.

While we need two eyes to perceive depth, mantis shrimps have no such handicap. While we have binocular vision, the shrimps have trinocular vision. This means that each eye can perceive depth all on it's lonesome. Using both in concert? Suddenly they're open to a whole dimension of vision we cannot begin to comprehend.

As if that wasn't enough to make them some kind of eyesight wizards, at least two species (including the aforementioned peacock mantis shrimps) can see circularly polarized light. While certain species of beetles reflect left-handed circularly polarized light off their carapaces, only the mantis shrimps seem to visually interpret it. Apparently, the shrimps fluoresce (glow) during mating rituals, but at frequencies only other mantis shrimps can see.

Honestly, it's like they're the perfect animal. They have the fastest weapons and most advanced eyes of any animals on Earth. And that's no hyperbole, that is an objective statement of fact. It's a crime that there's so many people who don't know about these amazing beasts. Plus they're so bombastically colorful! People on acid could only wish they could see hallucinations as psychedelic as these real life killing machines. Plus they're very inquisitive, as if there's the glimmer of a fabulous, primordial intellect behind all the flash and sparkle. Now imagine what it would be like if could get them to replicate their telomere like lobsters. Then they would become like gods.

And to think, there's people who still like pandas. They're not even in color.


mom said...

they are seriously beautiful!

Shadgrimgrvy said...

They're dressed to kill!

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