It’s weird, it’s wild and it washed up in Wareham.
So what is it?
You’re looking at a mantis shrimp, one of the most interesting creatures on Earth.
Wareham resident Scott Diogenes and his son Alex were walking their dog in the Swifts Beach area of town recently when they happened upon the carcass of a mantis shrimp.
“We actually found it slightly inland from Swifts Neck on Beach Street,” Scott Diogenes said. “It was above the water line from our recent flooding, so we are guessing a seabird dropped it.”
Garry Buckminster, Director of the Wareham Department of Natural Resources, said mantis shrimp are actually rather common in the Wareham River.
“We usually see them in the mud that comes up when we pull moorings,” he said. “A very cool and tough little creature!”
Mantis shrimp are so named because they resemble a praying mantis, but they’re not actually shrimp – they are their own part of the crustacean family. They scattered across the ocean floor seeking out their prey.
They run about eight to 10 inches in length, and resemble a lobster tail with a mantis-like head; it also has two large, powerful claws that have a strike velocity that is among the fastest movements of any animal on the planet. According to this NatGeo video, the claws “punch” its prey in less than eight milliseconds, a speed 50 times faster than it takes a person to blink.
For that reason, mantis shrimp are often referred to as “thumb-splitters” because of what happens to anyone who tries to pick one up. Their punch has actually bashed thumbs and toes of humans, and is even known to break aquarium glass when someone attempts to domesticate them.
The mantis shrimp also has the most sophisticated vision of any predator on Earth, helping it track down its prey before unleashing its powerful punch.
Here’s a fun fact about mantis shrimp: they’re actually cannibals. Not only do they eat fish, crabs and other ocean dwellers, they will also eat other mantis shrimp. While cannibalism isn’t uncommon in the natural world, imagine the boxing match between two mantis shrimp to determine which one gets to eat the other.
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