When shrimp attack


Photo Copyright Amanda Franklin. Live periwinkles on the left, periwinkle shell remains on the right.

Recently, The Oatmeal published a comic on the most bad-ass animal in the animal kingdom, the mantis shrimp. These animals really are pretty awe-inspiring as they can claim two “best of’s”; the most complex vision and the fastest punch. You really don’t want to screw with an animal that can probably see you and inflict some serious damage before you’ve even seen it. After all, they do have the nickname “Thumb-splitter”.

One thing The Oatmeal didn’t show (since it’s a comic) was photos of the aftermath of a mantis shrimp attack. I generally feed my mantis shrimp frozen fish, but I decided it was high time to see how they fared with a marine snail. And document the results.

After collecting a few periwinkles from an intertidal shoreline in Massachusetts, I was excited to drop one in each shrimp’s tank. I must admit, I wasn’t expecting action so quickly. A few seconds after the snail came to a rest on the coral rubble, the mantis shrimp was out of it’s PVC burrow and investigating the intruder. The shrimp quickly grabbed the snail and took it back into it’s burrow. From then on, all I could hear the constant rap of the mantis shrimp punching the snail shell.

Later that day I checked on the result. It was interesting to see that these guys are clean eaters. They eat in their burrows and all remains were carefully evicted after finishing their feast. Furthermore, there wasn’t an ounce of snail flesh left inside the shell and most of the shell was almost powder.

The photo above shows the only remaining large piece of the snail shells. It seems to reinforce The Oatmeal story and shows how amazing mantis shrimps really are.