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Mantis shrimp start practicing their punches at just 9 days old
By Charles Choi
APRIL 29, 2021 AT 1:07 PM
The fastest punches in the animal kingdom probably belong to mantis shrimp — and they may begin unleashing these attacks a little more than a week after hatching, when they have just started to hunt prey, a new study shows.
For the first time, researchers have peered through the transparent exoskeletons of these young mantis shrimp to see the inner mechanisms of their powerful weapons in motion, researchers report online April 29 in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The findings are letting scientists in on hidden details of how these speedy armaments work.
Mantis shrimp are equipped with special pairs of arms that can explode with bulletlike accelerations to strike at speeds of up to roughly 110 kilometers per hour. Previously, scientists deduced these weapons act much like crossbows. As a latch holds each arm in place, muscles within the arm contract, storing energy within the arm’s hinge. When the crustaceans release these latches, all this energy discharges at once (SN: 8/8/19).
But researchers didn’t know at what age mantis shrimp first begin launching these spring-loaded attacks. Computer simulations predicted that the armaments might be capable of greater accelerations the smaller they got, suggesting young mantis shrimp could actually have faster weapons than adults, says Jacob Harrison, a marine biologist at Duke University.
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The fastest punches in the animal kingdom probably belong to mantis shrimp, who begin unleashing these attacks just over a week after hatching.