Sparring With Mantis Shrimps

Mantis shrimps have a bit of a reputation for being pretty smart street fighters, albeit in their underwater allyways. Their actual name is Stomatopods but they are also known as mantis shrimps, and they have an ability to punch that is inspiring engineers to explore their incredible efficiency.

Wonderful slomo video has captured them slaying their pray with incredible speed and precision, but their behavior sparring with other mantis shrimps has also recently been studied.


Thirty four mantis shrimps were put into a lab and had their response to territorial conflicts monitored. In about 50% of the engagements over territory, the first move was to slam a raptorial club (a punch) into the mantis shrimp posing the threat. A kind of strike first, talk later approach.

Of the other 50% of the mantis shrimps monitored, all bar one ended with blows being unleashed. The report was produced by Patrick Green from Duke University, USA.

Like a speeding bullet

Research has discovered that mantis shrimps can unleash their fists/club at the same speed as bullets leaving a muzzle gun. Prior to the study it was thought that Mantis shrimps would open their combat with a harmless dancing movement to assess the competition prior to wading in, a little like a boxer.


Instead of this more considered approach, the punches thrown by the mantis shrimps allows for non-fatal assessment of the opposition to take place. The reciprient of the punch curls its rear forward between its legs so that its final body segment rises in front of it like a shield. This acts like a punch bag from the gym and dissipates the blow it has just received.

Typically the winner of these sparring sessions is the one throwing the most punches which results in one just backing off. It appears that they decide to retreat on the basis of being hit, but not damaged as would happen in a real fight.