Tuesday, March 6, 2018

"Who you calling a shrimp?": The deadly mantis punch




I stayed up 'til all hours making this animation/slideshow, or whatever it is - variable-speed gif? It's easy-peasy to find eye-aching photos of mantis shrimp, since for a while they were the darling of the internet. Animals can be "in" or  "out", and for a while it was the tardigrade, or water bear (which bears no relation to bears, believe me - they're ugly little suckers, even though indestructible). Mantis shrimp aren't merely gorgeous and gaudy, but they have these things like red boxing gloves that spring out at light speed and knock their prey out cold. Maybe THAT'S why they became so popular, especially in the United States (where boxing is king).




This is an excerpt from one of those NatGeo for Kids things that I find helpful because it gives me just the facts I need:

"Found in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the peacock mantis shrimp is arguably one of the most captivating creatures in the sea. Its hard-shelled body is bursting with color—hues of bright red, green, orange and blue, and its forearms are covered in spots. At the top of its head rests a set of protruding eyes, and they aren’t just for show.

These crustaceans have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom, containing millions of light-sensitive cells. With 16 color-receptive cones (compared to humans, who have just three), the peacock mantis shrimp can detect ten times more color than a human, including ultraviolet light. It can move each eye independently and uses this exceptional eyesight to avoid predators and track down prey.

The peacock mantis shrimp lives in the crevices of coral and rocks on the ocean floor. A territorial creature, it has been known to exhibit aggressive behavior toward intruders. This ferocious shrimp has club-like appendages that fold beneath its body, resembling a praying mantis.

With a spring-like motion, it uses these appendages to attack prey—and a mantis shrimp’s punch is no joke. With the ability to strike at the speed of a .22 caliber bullet (50 times faster than the blink of an eye), a blow from a mantis shrimp can easily break through the shell of a crab or mollusk."




Being incredibly lazy, I dredged up these mantis shrimp gifs  (which I made myself, so no stealing) from a previous post - but can you blame me? The weebly-wobbly eyes alone are gif-worthy, I think. When I first saw even a still photo of a mantis shrimp, I doubted my eyes, thinking it was a Facebook hoax. Looking it up, I saw all sorts of gosh-gee-golly blog posts about the New Cool Animal. Which they are, I fully admit (if not new any more).




I don't think every mantis shrimp is this gaudy. Some of the more pedestrian ones I saw just looked like brown lobsters with no claws. But the peacock variety is fascinating enough that photographers must look at them for hours to get just the right shot of its tarantula-like legs and alarming swivelling eyes with those awful little holes.




Everything this creature does is creepy, even if it's just going about its business. It's all those skittery little appendages, with things sticking out all over its body.




And this one, oh God. It is very slowly swallowing a fish, dissolving it on the way in.




But this is the crowning glory of the mantis shrimp: its incredible punch. I have read that they can actually break aquarium glass, so that lab technicians have turned on the lights in the morning to find an inch of water and shattered glass all over the floor.




That sounded like a social media myth to me.. But it's a fascinating species. I had a few questions, which of course the internet was kindly enough to answer: yes, you can eat them. Yes, you can buy them as pets (for around $90.00 - $130.00). Full-grown, they range from 2" to 7". And it's not a myth that they can shatter glass: that punch is the equivalent to a bullet fired at close range. 





This thing, though - it just sort of happened. When I have a lot of short gifs, I sometimes try to put them together into a compilation. Sometimes it works. This time, I came up with something infinitely more interesting. The gif animator just didn't like the gifs, or there were too many frames, or something, because they came out all patchy, but the effect is very cool because there's no background to these. I don't know how it happened, and I doubt if I could make it happen again. Normally if I try to feed in too much, the app just refuses to make the gif (and my, aren't I cool with the terminology today!). So this scary gif, made by accident, turns out to be the best of the whole set.


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