The Iron Fist, also known as the Mantis Shrimp

Lets talk about the mantis shrimp, a crustacean equipped with a super power like punch. The second thoracapod appendages (second arthropod leg) is powered by a three part system; engine, amplifier and tool, all of which are present in every mantis shrimp (Claverie and Patek 2013). However, there are many versions of the claw, where the two most polar versions are the club and the spear (Anderson and Patek 2015).

Here is a video to illustrate:


The mantis shrimps use their claws primarily for predatory behavior (Claverie and Patek 2013). However, it is also often observed to be used for defending territory, and against predators. They are also exceptionally unique and intriguing animals, which is why I chose to start with them.

In addition to its famous punch, the mantis shrimp is renowned for its binocular vision (Haug et al 2010). Each of its eyes are two parted, being able to see two places at the same time with the same eye. Consider the chameleons, with the ability to move each eye separately enabling them to look at two things at the same time. Then top that with two way split vision in each of these eyes, looking at four different things at the same time. How would one even process this much information simultaneously? That would be a different conversation in an entirely different blog.

To redirect the attention back at the defense mechanism, what is the current view on how these iron fists evolved? Anderson and Patek (2015) hypothesized that it may be related to energy , supported by deVries et al (2012) by adding that they store energy in their skeletal springs to create the catapult mechanism in their raptorial appendage . However, Claverie and Patek (2013) found that this energy is different in smasher (mantis shrimps with club-claws) from non-smashers (mantis shrimps with other versions of the claw) . It seems the non-smashers redirect some of the energy budget from amplifiers to muscle elasticity, similarly to the grasshopper and its hind legs. Claverie and Patek (2013) also stated that non-smashers evolved quicker than the smashers , indicating that smashers might be the latest branching on the mantis shrimp evolutionary tree. Apparently, Clavier and Patek (2013) found that the smashers morphological adaptation to create a punch of the equivalent power as a bullet leaving a gun, is of lower modularity. The question still stands for me though, why evolve the iron fist? It seems further research need to be conducted.

Lastly, I would like to just leave this video here for anyone who is interested in learning about the Mantis Shrimp with a laugh. Let me introduce to you the man who first introduced me to the Mantis Shrimp.


Next week we will be talking about our next super power, being invisible.



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