• Sunday, October 26, 2014

EVERYDAY SCIENCE

Have you met the Mantis Shrimp?

Labiba Mustabina

“Great things come in small packages,” said some wise man ages ago. Now, it might seem a little farfetched but he might've been talking about the magnificent sea creature named the mantis shrimp. This beautiful rainbow-encrusted crustacean might be a feather-weighted shrimp, but there's so much more to it than meets the eye.
Speaking of eyes, we humans have been blessed with the ability to see a lavishly colourful world. This is due to our eyes containing the photoreceptors, called cones, capable of detecting the colours red, blue and green, as well as all the colours derived from them. Thus, we and apes are gifted with trichromatic vision and we cannot help but feel sorry for the less fortunate. However, before we go on feeling sorry for other animals, the mantis shrimp has the intrinsic right to pity us, for the mantis' eyes have 16 types of photoreceptors, 12 for colour sensitivity and 4 for filtering! So folks, embrace the harsh fact that we may only dream but never in reality be able to see the psychedelic burst of colors a shrimp sees the world in.
It might be assumed a rainbow-seeing creature basked in glorious beauty, living in the rock formations and deep trenches of the oceans would have a gracious and humble life. That would be a major no! The mantis shrimp may flaunt its deceptive beauty all it wants, but it is a born-to-kill brutal predator.
The mantis shrimps have armies of spearers, who use their barbed raptorial front appendages to stab their prey to death, and armies of smashers, who like to bludgeon and dismember crabs, mollusks and oysters with their slightly developed club-like fore-appendages.
Whenever the mantis shrimp is in the mood for killing, it rapidly unfolds its raptorial claws and swings them at the prey. The strike travels with a mind dazzling acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet and the impact of 1500 Newton of force! If the initial strike fails, the mantis shrimp need not worry. The unbelievable speed of the first strike produces cavitation bubbles between the prey and the mantis, which immediately collapse to produce a shockwave of thousands of Kelvin and tiny bursts of light (sonoluminescence), deadly enough to stun or even kill its prey.
Such sorcery is in the mantis shrimp's art of killing that scientists are brainstorming to find a way to mimic the material of mantis' raptorial claws to build armour for combat troops! However, if all this information has inspired you to get a pet mantis, please don't. Without doubt, it will succeed in killing all your other aquarium dwellers and then break the aquarium glass to stun you to death as well. Meet the sugar-coated Hitler, the femme fatale of the seas -- the mantis shrimp!

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Published: 12:00 am Thursday, May 01, 2014

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