P is for Peacock Mantis Shrimp

Forget everything you thought you knew about shrimp. This quirky little crustacean is small only in size and much mightier than you'd imagine.

P is for Peacock Mantis Shrimp Illustration

There are about 400 species of mantis shrimp scouring the sea but none more brilliant and bold than the peacock mantis shrimp. It is a voracious predator, delivering deadly, backbreaking blows to its prey in just milliseconds.

The peacock mantis shrimp shares its name with two terrestrial creatures and for good reason. Like the peacock, the mantis shrimp is outfitted in incredible colors. Iridescent blues, rich reds and lush greens turn its shell into a veritable underwater rainbow. Two powerful appendages tucked away under that colorful fa├žade resemble the arms of a praying mantis.

With those raptorial appendages, the mantis shrimp pulverizes tough-shelled prey, such as crabs and mollusks, as well as gastropods, small fish and other shrimp. Some have even been observed attacking octopuses—formidable opponents considering their size.

Peacock Mantis Shrimp

Its hammer-like arms fire with the speed of a .22 caliber bullet. The attack is so powerful and swift that it boils the surrounding water, creating small pockets of air. Those bubbles collapse with enough force to stun nearby prey and emit tiny bursts of light—a phenomenon called sonoluminescence.

In addition to its extraordinary strength, the peacock mantis shrimp possesses some of the most impressive eyes in the animal kingdom. We humans have three types of color receptors, which allow us to see nearly 10 million different colors. The peacock mantis shrimp has an astonishing 12 to 16 and can detect light ranging from near-infrared to ultraviolet, a much greater range than our visible spectrum.

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