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Critters of the Great Barrier Reef Mantis Shrimp


Critters of the Great Barrier Reef Mantis Shrimp

Blink and you’ll miss it – Critters of the Great Barrier Reef Mantis Shrimp

When you first see a mantis shrimp, it is sometimes hard to believe that nature could really create something this colourful, some species are almost like looking at something from the circus! They are known as the predator in paradise and with 450 species in the world, 250 in the Indo-West Pacific area, there is a lot of variety as you can imagine.

The most common behaviour that these incredibly shrimp are known for is their strength. With two main types of shrimp, spear and club, they have made catching their prey a fine art. Spear species will throw out a spear like appendage on their front claw and impale their prey. Club species will hit their prey with a club appendage instead. This hit can be the same power and speed as a .22 calibre bullet which is strong enough to break the shells of almost all creatures. 

Mantis shrimp are also highly intelligent creatures capable of complex behaviours such as bonding in life long  relationships and interactions with their neighbours. When breeding, the female will lay the eggs in a burrow or under their own tails whilst the male will hunt for food for them both which shows a brilliant cooperation and intelligence. They are also very sensitive to changes in their environment and are a great indicator of a healthy reef. 

Trying to take a picture of these feisty crustaceans is not always easy. They always have 2 or 3 entrances to their burrow which in itself is hard to find as it is so well camouflaged and once you have found it, they will often only peek out for a split second at a time so you must be ready! So, blink and you really will miss it… 

Written by John Magee

Photo Credit John Magee

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Adrian Stacey
Scuba Diver ANZ Editor, Adrian Stacey, first learned to dive on the Great Barrier Reef over 24 years ago. Since then he has worked as a dive instructor and underwater photographer in various locations around the world including, Egypt, Costa Rica, Indonesia, Thailand, Mexico and Saba. He has now settled in Australia, back to where his love of diving first began.
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