The mantis shrimp is a very strange creature. It is a highly predatory arthropod with one of the most complex compound eyes in nature, each of which can not only see independently, but also can detect colors throughout the entire spectrum of light; their unique eye structure also allows the mantis shrimp to see in 3 dimensions. Add to their incredible eye sight two powerful claws that can strike prey with speeds as fast as any animal movement on earth and you have a very formidable predator. In fact, the mantis shrimp is named for its "praying mantis" like claws that they extend with such force, they can shatter the glass of an aquarium!
A close up view of the mantis shrimp's complex eyes
Mantis shrimp utilize their assets well; they are reclusive burrowers that use their broad tails to excavate a burrow in which they lie in wait for prey. As an unwitting victim wanders by, the mantis shrimp uses a lightning fast strike to capture and kill its prey. These animals are also known as "thumb splitters" for their effect on people who do not handle them with care. This particular animal was captured in a trawl off Beaufort, NC during a collecting trip. It cannot be housed in our "shrimp" exhibit with the true shrimps, the commercially important food species of brown, pink or white shrimp from the Genus Penaeus (pictured below) because it would easily feast upon its more passive tank mates and ultimately be the last shrimp standing.
The brown shrimp Penaeus aztecus is a species of true shrimp