The Peacock Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) is a large stomatopod that inhabits the tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific Ocean, ranging from the southern regions of Japan to the northern areas of Australia, and from the eastern reefs of the African continent all the way to the island of Guam in the Western Pacific. They inhabit of coral reefs and sandy and gravelly areas to a maximum depth of approximately 40m/130ft where they built U-shaped burrows.
The Peacock Mantis Shrimp can grow up to a total length of 18cm/7inch.
These crustaceans possess a captivating array of colours. Their abdominal somites have a beautiful olive green enamel-like appearance, while the upper part of their body showcases vibrant red and orange hues. The carapace of the mantis shrimp is adorned with beautiful leopard-like spots on its lateral sides. One can't help but notice the striking satin or velvet-like green antennae scales with red frill-like edge, which, with a little imagination, resemble the tail feathers of a male peacock. This resemblance is the reason behind their name, Peacock Mantis Shrimp. Notably, the coloration of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp exhibits sexual dimorphism, with males being more brightly coloured than females.
One of the remarkable features of the Peacock Mantis Shrimp is its arms, which function as spring-loaded hammer-shaped mechanisms. These raptorial appendages allow the shrimp to smash through shells and deliver powerful blows to potential predators. Their primary diet consists of bivalves, such as scallops, and other crustaceans like crabs, their preferred food. To immobilise their prey, they utilise their formidable arm strength to deliver a forceful strike, breaking through the exoskeleton or shell. These strikes are incredibly fast, reaching speeds of 20m/65ft per second or so, making it the fastest recorded punch among all living animals. The strike consists of two impacts: one from the limb itself and another from the explosion of a cavitation bubble created by the rapid movement of the raptorial appendage. Such is the strength of their strikes that they can break the dome of an underwater camera or even split one's index finger if one ventures too close to the shrimp's comfort.
In addition to their formidable physical attributes, the Peacock Mantis Shrimp is capable of producing a rumbling sound. They use this sound to warn potential predators or other mantis shrimp encroaching on their territory, much like how a rattlesnake shakes its rattle.
These creatures are also renowned for their highly advanced eyesight, able to detect ultraviolet and polarised light, which is accompanied by the ability to detect different colours in water. These extraordinary senses greatly contribute to the Peacock Mantis Shrimp's exceptional hunting skills.
Normally I would anticipate the movement of a mantis shrimp to capture it on camera. However, on this particular occasion, without any specific reason, I found myself halting the movement of my camera precisely at the moment when the stomatopod unexpectedly made a swift U-turn. Reflecting on this coincident, I came to realise that sometimes, all it takes is a stroke of luck to capture those serendipitous moments.
This short underwater videoclip has been filmed in Mauritius 🇲🇺
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