Thursday, April 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Secrets of a Killer Shrimp

It's an amazing world out there. The tropical mantis shrimp is not only beautiful, it's powerful, using a club-like appendage to pound open clam shells and the heads of fish. Engineers at UC Riverside are studying the material properties of the "club" down to the nanoscale to figure out how the shrimp manages to use it without hurting itself.

Secrets of a Killer Shrimp

The tropical mantis shrimp is not only beautiful, it’s powerful, using a club-like appendage to pound open clam shells and the heads of fish. Engineers at UC Riverside are studying the material properties of the “club” down to the nanoscale to figure out how the shrimp manages to use it without hurting itself.  The published their results in this week's issue of Science. From UCR:

The bright orange fist-like club of the mantis shrimp, or stomatopod, a 4-inch long crustacean found in tropical waters, accelerates underwater faster than a 22-caliber bullet. Repeated blows can destroy mollusk shells and crab exoskeletons, both of which have been studied for decades for their impact-resistant qualities.

The power of the mantis shrimp is exciting, but David Kisailus, an assistant professor at the Bourns College of Engineering, and his collaborators, were interested in what enabled the club to withstand 50,000 high-velocity strikes on prey during its lifespan. Essentially, how does something withstand 50,000 bullet impacts?

Read more here

See a video of the shrimp in action here. That’s a lot of food for a shrimp.  

About this blog
Faye Flam - writer
In pursuit of her stories, writer Faye Flam has weathered storms in Greenland, gotten frost nip at the South Pole, and floated weightless aboard NASA’s zero-g plane. She has a degree in geophysics from the California Institute of Technology and started her writing career with the Economist. She later took on the particle physics and cosmology beat at Science Magazine before coming to the Inquirer in 1995. Her previous science column, “Carnal Knowledge,” ran from 2005 to 2008. Her new column and blog, Planet of the Apes, explores the topic of evolution and runs here and in the Inquirer’s health section each Monday. Email Faye at fflam@phillynews.com. Reach Planet of the at fflam@phillynews.com.

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