Sep 29, 2022 - News

Dangerous mantis shrimp seen near Miami Beach shores during Ian

A closeup of the beady eyes of a Mantis shrimp.

Photo: Reinhard Dirscherl\ullstein bild via Getty Images

Mantis shrimp, crustaceans with powerful limbs that can punch and pierce their prey, showed up near Miami Beach shores during Hurricane Ian, a surfer says.

Driving the news: A South Beach surfer warned on social media Wednesday that mantis shrimp were found as the hurricane plowed through the area.

  • "If you're surfing South Beach, be careful as there are a lot of large mantis shrimp floating around due to the storm," the surfer's Instagram post read. He did not immediately return a call from Axios.

Why it matters: The marine crustaceans can punch faster than a bullet and draw blood with their strong claws.

State of play: Mantis shrimp are common in Florida, but they typically hide in burrows or among dead coral, Florida International University professor Heather Bracken-Grissom told Axios.

  • The Coral City Camera, an art and scientific research project that streams live from an urban coral reef in Miami, showed one that became a much larger scorpionfish's snack earlier this week.

What they're saying: "With the hurricane, they probably got kind of evacuated from their burrows," Bracken-Grissom said.

  • She also recalled hearing reports of fishermen catching mantis shrimp this summer.
  • "Big ones could take your finger off, probably," she said.

Context: The crustaceans, which can grow from about half an inch to about a foot long, live around the world, both in tropical and subtropical waters, according to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation. There are 450 different species of mantis shrimp, divided into two categories:

  • "Spearers" have claws with sharp, spear-like projections that they use to pierce the shells of crabs and snails.
  • "Smashers" have club-like protrusions on their claws and, studies show, can punch at 108 km/hour — equivalent to a bullet shot from a 9mm-caliber pistol.

Of note: Mantis shrimp also have one of the most complex visual systems in the animal kingdom, and can see colors that humans cannot.

The intrigue: The shrimps' fighting capabilities have been studied by Harvard scientists, with funding from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.

  • Last year, researchers announced they had built a robot to mimic the shrimps' movements.
  • The robot's speed was equivalent to a car accelerating to 58 mph in 4 milliseconds — and still was not as fast as the shrimp.

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