Aptly named for the male’s kaleidoscope of vivid greens and blues, and their mantis-like shape, the peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) is an intelligent and formidable predator. Native to the warm Indo-Pacific waters, this mantis shrimp is a marine wonder. Not only is it one of the most captivating creatures of our seas, it also possess some fascinating predatory techniques.
Also called the painted or clown mantis shrimp, they are not large crustaceans, only reaching a maximum length of 18cm. But what they lack in size they make up for in appearance. Males have a primarily green exoskeleton with subtle tones of sapphire, whilst females are mainly red in colour. They have elegant leopard-like spots on their upper carapace.
Impressively, these shrimps have some of the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. While we have just three receptive cones in our eyes, the peacock mantis shrimp has 16, allowing them to see a spectrum of colours we can’t even fathom – including ultraviolet light. They use these extraordinary eyes to track prey and avoid predators.
With club-like limbs the peacock mantis shrimp can deliver powerful punches. Hunting a variety of gastropods, crustaceans and bivalves, they use their strong appendages to repeatedly smash their prey until exposing the soft tissue inside. It is reported to have a punch of over 50 miles per hour – the fastest recorded punch of any animal! The acceleration of their deadly blows is similar to that of a bullet.
The peacock mantis shrimp’s vibrant colours make it popular in the aquarium industry. However, they are not easy creatures to keep. Individuals will eat many of the other fish and invertebrates in the tank, and are even capable of breaking their glass tanks with their punches. Therefore, some more perceptive aquarists actively avoid this cunning creature.
Hennessy, K., Wiggins, V. (2014) Animal Encyclopedia: The Definitive Visual Guide. 2nd edn. London. Dorling Kindersley.