Video copyright Amanda Franklin, not to be used without permission
I just realised that I never wrote a blog post about my fieldwork in Belize. I got too excited by actually being punched by a mantis shrimp to share the other tales of my trip. (It is pretty exciting to be punched by the animal with the fastest punch in the world, even if it was only a small one).
Even though that one shrimp managed to get me, I did find and catch 30 shrimp in the two weeks I was there. I must say, I think I’m pretty good at finding them now! My method involves sticking a probe into any cavities in coral rubble that look ideal for a mantis shrimp, and, if one is in there, it can’t resist punching the probe. Wah lah! I have a new shrimp to investigate behaviour.
Once I had enough male and female shrimp, I paired them up and watched their interactions in a tub outside (you’ve got to keep the lighting natural!). It was very interesting! They would display, punch, try to take over the cavity from the occupying shrimp and one pair actually mated! However, I do think the interactions would be more realistic if I did the experiments in the ocean (which is my plan for the next field trip!). This is because the lighting will be more realistic and the concentration of chemical cues wouldn’t be too high.
I also found several large mantis shrimps in burrows that they dug in the sand in shallow water (<30cm). I managed to take some video footage of one making a sand cap to close off its burrow. Check it out above. What you’ll see is a shrimp using its maxillipeds and some sort of sticky saliva to stick the sand grains together over the burrow opening. The whole process lasted about 15 minutes, so I’ve just shown you the start and the end here.