Wild Things: Life as We Know It
Drought crises, Florida panthers, humpback whales and more...
- By T. A. Frail, Jesse Rhodes, Jessica Righthand, Brandon Springer and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, December 2010
Name: The mantis shrimp (Neogonodactylus wennerae),
a coastal crustacean.
Eats: Snails, blasting open their shells with a "raptorial appendage," a spring-loaded hammer-arm that slices through seawater at up to 50 mph.
Fights: To protect its burrow from other shrimp. They trade ritual blows to the tail that would shatter mollusk shells or crab carapaces.
Lives: Because its tail dissipates almost 70 percent of a blow's energy. How? A study from the University of California at Berkeley shows that the tail absorbs the force like a punching bag, rather than deflecting it like a trampoline. The punches may help shrimp size up opponents.
"Investigations into the status of a new taxon of Salanoia (Mammalia: Carnivora: Eupleridae) from the marshes of Lac Alaotra, Madagascar," Joanna Durbin et al., Systematics and Biodiversity, September 15, 2010
"Recent decline in the global land evapotranspiration trend due to limited moisture supply," Martin Jung et al., Nature, October 10, 2010
"A quarter of a world away: female humpback whale moves 10,000 km between breeding areas," Peter T. Stevick et al., Biology Letters, October 13, 2010
"Ritualized fighting and biological armor: the impact mechanics of the mantis shrimp's telson," J. R. A. Taylor and S. N. Patek, Journal of Exerimental Biology, October 1, 2010
"Genetic Restoration of the Florida Panther," Warren E. Johnson et al., Science, September 24, 2010