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Video: Shrimp boxing

Mantis shrimp protect themselves with armor that acts like a punching bag

Megan Scudellari

Mantis shrimp are the heavyweight champions of the sea. Some species can kill competitors with a single blow, striking with specialized forelimbs at speeds up to 50 mph (80 kph) and peak forces of 1,500 newtons. Now, researchers are taking a closer look at the biomechanics of the mantis shrimp's knock out punch. And they're borrowing methodologies from the fields of physics and engineering to do it.

Mantis Shrimp
Image: Wikimedia commons, Nazir Amin

Though they are skilled attackers, mantis shrimp rarely go straight for the kill. Rather than risking death at the appendages of a more powerful shrimp in a dispute over the best burrow, many mantis species perform ritualized fighting, swapping repeated, intense blows against each other's tail plates. "It's a way to size up your opponent before you commit to a full-fledged battle," said linkurl:Jennifer Taylor,;http://new.ipfw.edu/departments/coas/depts/biology/about/faculty/Taylor.html an assistant professor at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne and...

J.R.A. Taylor and S.N. Patek, "Ritualized fighting and biological armor: the impact mechanics of the mantis shrimp's telson," The Journal of Experimental Biology, 213:3496-504, 2010.
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[1st December 2009]

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