The mantis shrimp is one of the coolest, most kick-ass animals of the sea, but don’t just take my word for it. Ask for evidence, and ye shall receive. Okay, here goes.
Firstly, these creatures are masters of disguise and illusion, for the mantis shrimp is neither a mantis, nor a shrimp. They are crustaceans, more closely related to lobsters and crabs than to either of their namesakes.
[PEACOCK MANTIS SHRIMP – NEITHER A PEACOCK, A MANTIS NOR A SHRIMP]
So inaccurate humanoid-given names aside, one factor that immediately gives away the super-cool status of these guys is that the ~400 species of mantis shrimp can be broadly divided into two categories: Spearers and Smashers. SPEARERS. AND. SMASHERS. This name refers to what job the claws on their front appendages do best – namely, whether they have a spike on the end to STAB and SPEAR and IMPALE soft-bodied pray to death, or whether they are equipped with a club, better designed to SMASH and BASH and BLUDGEON hard-bodied neighbours up before chomping down on them for lunch.
A spearer mantis shrimp in action. Source
Smasher mantis shrimps are particularly incredible – these guys can pack a harder punch than any other living thing, up to 50mph, and bear in mind that’s punching through the resistance of water. The punch of a basher mantis shrimp is often compared to being as powerful as the acceleration of a .22 calibre bullet. Oh, did I mention that the mantis shrimp’s punch is so quick that it causes the surrounding water to boil? THE MANTIS SHRIMP CAN BOIL WATER JUST BY PUNCHING IT.
Mantis shrimps are not only freakishly strong, bludgeoning hulk-crustaceans, they also boast one of the most complex visual systems known to science. To put this into perspective, let’s compare them to us: humans have three colour-receptive cones (red, blue and yellow), which allow us to perceive the world in the rainbow that we do. The mantis shrimp does not have three colour-receptive cones; it has sixteen. It can see colours that we can’t even imagine, including the ultra-violet spectrum. And just to add to their bad-ass image, scientists believe that it is possible that this incredible colour vision evolved in some species primarily for sex! We are not sure of the precise mechanisms by which mantis shrimps use colour for sexual signals, but it is thought that because no other species can see the vast spectrum of colour that certain mantis shrimps utilize, it acts as a secret channel of messaging within the species and therefore cannot be exploited by outsiders and cannot attract the attention of nearby predators. This does help to explain why these creatures are so majestically colourful.
So there you have it. The mantis shrimp is cooler than you are, and is not to be messed with. These colourful boxers and impalers of the sea are spectacular, and I suggest reading the links below to learn more about them. Oh, you probably won’t find many in captivity, though. Aquariums are often reluctant to house them since they destroy any species they are homed with and they have the ability to punch through the glass. TO PUNCH THROUGH THE GLASS. OH MY GOD. Go take a long, hard look in the mirror, puny human. And don’t even attempt to punch your way through it.
You should definitely check out this comic strip by the fantastic Oatmeal - it's way better than this post http://theoatmeal.com/comics/mantis_shrimp More info: On Punching: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2008/07/19/the-mantis-shrimp-has-the-worlds-fastest-punch/ On Vision: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080320120732.htm