When you’re diving in Indonesia there is so much to look forward to – and it’s not just swimming with mantas or whalesharks that make for unforgettable experiences or interesting encounters. Take, for example, the peacock mantis shrimp, one of the most powerful – and colorful – predators on the planet.
What makes them interesting?
How many colors do you see on the crustacean above? Orange, green, blue, red, perhaps some purple… so that’s five, right? Well, when one peacock mantis shrimp looks at another it’s seeing a lot more than that because the world according to this little critter is a whole lot more colorful than it is for us.
Peacock mantis shrimps have one of the most complex eye structures on the planet. While we humans have three color-receptor cones in our eyes, this little guy has 16. It can see ultraviolet and infrared light and can detect 10 times more colors than we can. They’re territorial creatures and their excellent eyesight allows them to keep stringent watch over their ’hood. Their eyes move independently and when they detect prey (usually on hard-shelled invertebrates like crabs, mollusks and gastropods) these predators can strike out at the speed of a .22 caliber bullet – that’s 50 times faster than the blink of a human eye. If we humans could punch that hard, we’d be able to break steel.
There are around 400 types of mantis shrimps, and they can be divided into two groups according to how they snag their meals: spearers and smashers. Spearers catch prey with spiny appendages that have sharp barbs, and smashers – the peacock mantis falls into this group – strike at their prey. They clobber them with a large clubbed “arm” that is strong enough to make around 1000 hits before it needs to be replaced. Once the smashers have broken the shell of their prey they feast on the soft, squishy tissue inside.
Peacock mantis shrimps range from 3 to 18cm; the males are brightly colored while the females are predominantly red. Mantis shrimps usually live for three to six years, although some have been known to live for 20 years.
The peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) lives at depths between three and 40 meters, in the crevices of rocks and corals in the warm waters of the Indo-Pacific. These are the waters Dunia Baru sails and so there is a chance that you will see one when you are diving in Indonesia.