14 Facts about Mantis Shrimp: They can Break Glass And Cut through Your Finger

The mantis shrimp is one of the most colorful creatures in the ocean. However, don’t let this appearance fools you. Behind that beauty is a powerful animal that can smash through the prey’s shell and cut human fingers into bone. Let’s look at amazing facts about mantis shrimp, which can blow your mind.

Mantis shrimp
Scientific name: Stomatopoda
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Stomatopoda
Genus: Squilla

1. Mantis shrimp are not shrimp

The mantis shrimp is a tiny, aggressive marine species that lives in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Unlike the name, mantis shrimp are actually not shrimp. They also have no relationship with the praying mantis.

Mantis shrimps members of the Stomatopoda order. They are hard-shelled animals related to crabs, shrimp, crayfish, krill, and lobsters. They are listed as the least concerned animals.

These species are quite dangerous. There’re few reports that humans get hurt by mantis shrimp. In most cases, the injuries were caused by their claws. There was a man who had a finger amputated because of the strike. You should avoid close contact with them due to the risk of being attacked.

2. They are colorful

Mantis shrimp come in hues ranging from dark brown to bright green, orange, red, and electric blue. Among these beautiful creatures, the Peacock mantis shrimp is the most colorful in the world. This species is called by different names, like clown mantis shrimp, harlequin mantis shrimp, or painted mantis shrimp.

Mantish shrimp is one of the most colorful ocean species

Their usual size is about 10cms (4 inches) in length, although some have grown to be as large as 46cms (18 inches). Only the back of their head and the first segments of the thorax are protected by the shell (or ‘carapace’).

One of the standout features of this species is its big buggy eyes. Those eyes protrude from their heads and flap on the sides of their heads. There are spines on their tails.


3. They are divided into 2 groups

There are about 450 types of mantis shrimp, ranging in size from less than an inch to more than a foot. Based on the sort of their claws and the way they attack the victims, these species are commonly categorized into 2 types: ‘spearers’ or ‘smashers’.

Smashers are the types having club-like claws. These claws are used to smash and break the prey’s shells with tremendous power, just like hammers.

On the other hand, spearers have sharp and jagged spear-like claws. They stab and cut their soft-bodied prey with these claws. Spearers are about 10 times slower than the smasher cousins, but they are still fearsome predators sowing the fear of being impaled to many species.

4. Their diets fit their claws

Depending on the claws they have, mantis shrimps will have different diets. With the club-like claws to crack the shells of prey, smashers mostly eat shellfish, snails, crabs (hermit carbs), and other crustaceans. Meanwhile, spearers mainly feed on soft-bodied sea species, such as different types of worms and fish.

Mantis shrimp’s predators include rays, yellowfin tuna, sharks, larger fish, and especially humans. These creatures are commonly eaten in some countries like Mediterranean, Hawaiian, Japanese, Vietnamese, Phillipino, and Cantonise.

5. They rarely leave their burrows

Mantis shrimp are lonely and territorial marine creatures. They spend their large time sheltering in rocks and burrowing in the sea floor. They hardly go outside except for hunting or reproducing.

They’re usually found at the foot of coral reefs in U-shaped tunnels. They might be diurnal or nocturnal, depending on the species.

A mantis shrimp in its burrow

Smashers and spearers prefer distinct surroundings. Smashers like to locate in corals or rocks. When growing up, they might have to move and find larger burrows. Whereas, spearers tend to locate in softer terrain, such as under sand. This allows them to simply hide and wait until they need to attack. They can also change their burrows as they grow larger.

Fact: They make threatening sounds
California mantis shrimps are the species that make deep, growling rumbling sounds. The males frequently groan at dawn and dusk, when they are seeking food and protecting their habitats. Scientists believe they growl to attract partners and repel opponents.

6. They are strong enough to break glass and boil water

One of the most fascinating facts about mantis shrimp is that they have the strongest striking capability in the animal world. We’re talking about the smashers. 

Despite having a small size, smashers can create fast punches which are more than 1,500 newtons of force. This is comparable to the force of a.22 caliber bullet. That’s 2.5k times the force of their weight. With such a powerful force, humans could punch through steel.

They can generate such tremendous power due to the biological springs in their appendages (a.k.a ‘dactyl clubs’) on the front of their bodies. This characteristic enables them to give deadly punches that easily break the shells of crabs and clams. They can even cut humans’ fingers to the bone.

But how can mantis shrimp punch so hard without any damage? There are 2 main reasons:

– Their appendages are coated with hydroxyapatite, a hard crystalline calcium-phosphate ceramic substance.

– Underneath their clubs, they feature unique layers of stretchy polysaccharide chitin. Those layers are arranged to work as shock absorbers. This is known as a bouligand structure, it prevents minor cracks from developing full breaks.

Bouligand structure inspired many human’s inventions

The structure is so strong that it is researchers based on it to create a sort of carbon fiber material. This material might be used in airplane panels and military body armor.

Not only are smashers powerful, but they are also very fast. They can punch at speed of 51 mph (83 km/h), the same as the velocity of a .22 caliber rifle. This is approximately 50 times quicker than a wink.

Their punch is so quick that ‘cavitation’ bubbles are formed. This is a very hot bubble with a little burst of light. In the surrounding ocean, temperatures inside the bubble can reach 4,400 degrees Celsius (almost as hot as the sun’s surface).

When the bubbles explode, they create powerful shock waves. The shock waves are powerful enough to paralyze victims, break them, or even kill them instantly. This is extremely effective if the shrimp miss their victim.

7. They are uncommon pets

They can even crack and punch holes in aquarium glass. That’s the reason why mantis shrimp aren’t popular as house pets. When they come across an impediment they want to move, they frequently try to punch it to make the way out. They also strike their own reflection in the glass.

You’ll need toughened acrylic glass if you wish to keep a mantis shrimp as a pet. Furthermore, this species is very territorial, so you need to keep it away from other creatures, even its own kind, otherwise, it will attack them fiercely.  

Fact: They have ritual fighting
Mantis shrimps are territorial. They’re gonna fight for food and territories, and they like to do it through ritualized fighting. During the fight, they mainly attack the telsons (tail plates) of their rivals. This is a nonfatal fight and some scientists call it “telson sparring”.

8. They see things like a satellite

Mantis shrimps are supposed to be the animals that have the most complicated eyes with the most sophisticated visual system in the world. 

Their big eyes protrude and can move independently. Each of them has ‘trinocular vision’. This means that they can estimate depth and distance by concentrating on objects with 3 distinct areas. The structure in their eyes is comparable to DVD player technology, but considerably more complex.

Their eyes are so remarkable that they can see a broad range of colors, infrared, ultraviolet (UV) light wavelengths, and even circularly polarised light. This has not been observed in any other creature.

Their unique vision is beyond us, they see more like a satellite than a natural species. Their eyes have 12 to 16 light-sensitive receptors, which allows them to see the environment in a rainbow of brilliant shades. We, on the other hand, only have 3 photoreceptors to see red, green, and blue.

Their vision is beyond us/ Cre: on picture

These animals are believed to interpret all visual information in their brains at once. They don’t need to process that info, which enables them to respond to the environment real quick. To react to their surroundings, they can also fine-tune their color vision.

All these abilities make them excellent at both hunting and escaping predators.

9. Their unique vision has many benefits

Mantis shrimps’ extraordinary vision offers them advantages.

– Because these shrimps are the only ones that can see polarized light, they can use it as a secret way to communicate.

– Their sophisticated vision may also recognize transparent and semi-transparent marine animals on coral reefs. They can also detect the glittering scales of their predator – barracuda. Their superb depth awareness allows them to strike quickly and accurately.

– Scientists are aiming to mimic the complex eyesight of mantis shrimps in order to create cameras that can identify cancer cells since their eyes can see polarized light. This is because some polarized light reflects differently in normal and diseased tissues.

10. They are named after their appearance

The species got their name as they kill victims in the same way as praying mantis do (Mantis religiosa). Both of them strike by using their folded forelimbs. The mantis shrimp, on the other hand, is far more deadly.


Stomatopods are known by several distinct names. For example, Australians referred to them as “prawn killers,” while the Ancient Assyrians called them “sea locusts.” Their most intriguing moniker, though, is “thumb splitters.” The species gets its name from the terrible gashes it can give to humans if they handle it carelessly.

11. They are older than dinosaurs

Stomatopods separated from other crustaceans around 400 million years ago, roughly 170 million years prior to the first dinosaurs. They’ve continued an isolated evolutionary history since then, which has led to some of their distinct traits. Their biology is so peculiar that scientists have given them the moniker “shrimp from Mars.”

12. Reproducing quite dangerous

Mating could be a dangerous activity for these creatures because they are naturally hostile and territorial. Males must often fight to make their way into a female’s burrow, and they then depart after fertilizing the female’s eggs.

Being out of the burrows is very dangerous for them because they can be attacked by huge predators. That’s why elder mantis shrimps tend to be females, the ratio is approximately five females to one male.

In some species, females visit the males’ burrows. However, the females can sometimes expel the males when they are not yet ready to procreate. To prevent this happens, the males only let the females in during the full moon. This is the time when they are most likely to reproduce.

13. Some mantis shrimp species are monogamous

Some mantis shrimp species are monogamous, which is particularly notable in crustacean species. Throughout their lifespan, they will choose one mate to share food, burrow, and raise offspring together.

They’re quite responsible parents when taking care of their eggs together like those in genus Nannosquilla and Pullosquilla. If the females lay two batches of eggs, each of them will be looked after by one parent. In other species, the females care for their eggs, while the males are in charge of hunting.

A mantis pair share the same burrow

By living together, mantis shrimp pairs can have a fairly safe life. They can stay away from predators because they don’t have to go outside, seeking partners to breed with on a frequent routine.

14. They can move through somersaults

These crustaceans move similarly to lobsters and shrimp. However, one species can move through somersaults. It is Nannosquilla decemspinosa. This species can spin itself through the flat ground as well as uphill slopes.It can move in this manner due to its elastic body and fairly weak legs. During low tides, this kind of movement helps move them through sand. 

15. Mantis shrimp infographic

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We are passionate animal enthusiasts with over a decade of experience studying animals. With a degree in zoology and conservation biology, we've contributed to various research and conservation projects. We're excited to bring you engaging content that highlights the wonders of the animal kingdom. We aim to inspire others to appreciate and protect wildlife through informative content grounded in expertise and passion. Join us as we delve into the captivating world of animals and discover the incredible stories they have to tell.

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