Monday, November 7, 2016

Critter Tales - The Mighty Mantis Shrimp

By Danielle Gariglio, Communications Intern
It’s hard to believe that a critter small enough to fit in your hand has earned itself the title of “thumb splitter” from fishermen around the world. Mantis shrimp, though only four to five inches long, have the fastest punch in the world and are able to smash shells, glass and, evidently, the thumbs of fishermen. Some Mantis shrimp are so powerful they can strike with the same force as a 22-caliber bullet!

These featherweight champions are usually laid back and slow moving by nature, until it’s time to eat or protect itself from a dangerous predator. If you’re at our Exploration Center and Aquarium down in Newport, pay close attention to our resident mantis shrimp, and you might find him kicking up the ground beneath him, creating a flurry of dust in his tank and wiggling his way into tight spaces. This habit is called burrowing, a common behavior used by mantis shrimp to escape predators. And keep an eye out for next month’s Feeding Frenzy, because that’s when these crustaceans really come to life! They’ll wrestle and wrangle their prey like their lives depend on it.

At first glance, these critters may seem bleak and dull with an opaque, gray color to them and a dozen scales lining the length of their backs, but there is more to the Mantis shrimp than meets the eye, literally. Mantis shrimp have incredibly advanced eyes with three lenses, as opposed to one in humans, and 16 color receptor cones, while humans have only three! This means that Mantis shrimp can detect up to ten times more colors than we even think possible! While also having the ability to see ultraviolet light, Mantis shrimp are regarded as having the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom.

“Try to picture a world where color is more vibrant than your imagination can even come up with,” said Exploration Center Manger Adam Kovarsky. “Mantis shrimp have a life we could never begin to comprehend; our brains can’t do it!”


Mantis shrimp generally live in the western Atlantic Ocean and can live in waters as deep as 500 feet. But, the Exploration Center has a few of its very own! One mantis shrimp has a big tank all to himself right next to the Big Fish of the Bay exhibit, and another mantis shrimp shares a tank with the infamous stargazer in the Narragansett Bay at Night exhibit. Come meet these powerful punchers and the rest of Save The Bay’s friendly critters too, at the Save The Bay Exploration Center and Aquarium at Easton’s Beach in Newport, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m.–4 p.m. The aquarium will also be open on Veteran’s Day, Friday, Nov. 11 from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.