Today I painted mantis shrimp. No, I didn’t paint a picture of a mantis shrimp, I painted a live mantis shrimp. Whilst this picture may look 30 years old and isn’t in focus (I had a stomatopod pinned out, no time for fantastic photography!), you can see the stomatopod pinned in a petri dish in the front left. I am painted over a coloured patch on the stomatopod’s body and will then put two stomatopods together and observe how they behave. If a stomatopod paired with a painted stomatopod behaves differently to one paired with a not-painted stomatopod, then the original colour may be being used as a signal.
For example, in some bird species, females prefer males that are more brilliant orange. These males actually have less parasites than males who are dull orange. So the intensity of the orange colour actually signals male health to the female. By painting the stomatopods, I am investigating whether stomatopods also use colour as a signal.