Monday, March 7, 2011

Creature Feature: Mantis Shrimp.

Remember how, in the blacklight entry, we said that birds could see UV light? And hey, don't vipers and pythons see heat via infrared? It would be the most awesome thing in the world to see all that and more, would it not?

Well, there is one animal that can do that. No, it's not a bird. It's not a snake. It's not a mammal that exceeds humanity in every regard. It is a crustacean called a mantis shrimp, and is a real badass for having the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom. It is also a reminder that the sea can be a scary, wonderful place and that, in his city at R'lyeh,  Cthulhu waits dreaming.

Mantis shrimp: When H.P. Lovecraft pops LSD. 

Just to clarify, mantis shrimp are not shrimp.  They are an entirely different type of crustacean called a stomatopod. They exist in all of the world's oceans as well as in dreams after smoking too much weed. Appropriately, they have been called creepy names such as "sea locusts," "prawn killers," and, recently, "thumb-splitters." Mantis shrimp have been known to break aquarium glass on occasion. They are compared to a predatory insect for a very good reason

But it's so beautiful...

As the iridescent shells of some of these 'shrimp' might indicate, mantis shrimp can see color.  Yes, they appreciate reds, greens and blues like humans, birds, insects and...well, not many other things can see color on land. Bear in mind that birds and insects kick our collective ass when it comes to color vision. 

So do mantis shrimp. They win at color vision. Period. Name a type of light and these guys can see it. UV? Yes. Infrared? Mm-hmm. Radio waves? 3D movies? Oh hell yes, this crazy crustacean can see those without the aid of silly glasses. Name a wavelength of light and this creature can see it. The result is, well...


This cube and then some. 

Nobody really knows why these crustaceans evolved such sophisticated vision. In more colorful species, it allows them to see each other better; in other species, it may help them determine what phase the moon is currently in or help spot shining predators like the barracuda. Whatever the cause, it sure makes us feel silly for being one of the only mammals with RGB vision. 

We get back at them by turning them into sushi. 

Tomorrow: Just what IS a firefox, anyways? If you answered "Vulpix," you're wrong.

1 comment:

  1. Wanna ask if mantis prawns are also called dragon prawns? Thanks. I am at