• Strategy

Appendage strikes with force: mantis shrimp


Mantis Shrimp / Andy Law / LicenseCC-by-nc-nd - Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives

The feeding appendage of the mantis shrimp breaks through the hard shells of its prey using tremendous elastic energy stored in a saddle-shaped spring, and destructive vapor bubbles produced as a result of the blow.

"The mantis shrimp has a feeding appendage that is adapted for spearing or smashing prey with a powerful force. A biological hyperbolic-paraboloid spring and a latch mechanism store up elastic strain energy that when released, can smash the shells of prey such as snails, crabs, and clams. Vapor bubbles released also appear to increase the energy of the strike." (Courtesy of the Biomimicry Guild)

Watch this video to see a mantis shrimp in action.

"When a lurking mantis shrimp strikes, the victim rarely knows what hit it. Uncoiling its raptorial appendages in less than 2 ms, mantis shrimp dispatch their prey quickly. Sheila Patek, Travis Zack and Thomas Claverie explain that the shrimp's explosive strikes are powered by energy stored in spring structures in the shrimp's exoskeleton, 'but little is known about the dynamics and location of elastic energy storage structures in this system,' they explain. Curious to find out more about how the crustaceans strike, the team used computed tomography to get inside mantis shrimp's skeletons and measured the force required to compress raptorial appendage structures that could launch a lunge (p. 4002).

"Calculating the energy stored in the merus region of the appendage, the team realised that it must be stored in highly mineralised internal bar structures in the limb. And when the team cut the bars, they found that it was impossible to store energy in the system: the bars are the elastic structures that store the shrimp's phenomenal power. The team also modelled energy storage in the bar structures, and realised that the structures were behaving just like conventional springs: they store energy provided by the extensor muscle as the muscle contracts, and release the energy explosively when the latches release.

"'The spring acts as a power amplifier,' Patek explains, and she estimates that by storing energy in the compressed spring, the tiny 97 mg extensor muscle could amplify its power output more than 27 times." (Knight 2009:iii, referring to article in JEB; see references)
About the inspiring organism
Common name: mantis shrimp

Learn more at EOL.org
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Stronger manufacturing or architectural materials. Device for using release of elastic energy. Check out this video to see how engineers are already mimicking the mantis shrimp to develop strong materials: http://www.scivee.tv/node/61702

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Manufacturing, construction

The Patek Lab
Sheila N. Patek
Biology Department, University of Massachusetts
Zack, TI; Claverie, T; Patek, SN. 2009. Elastic energy storage in the mantis shrimp's fast predatory strike. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212(24): 4002-4009.
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Knight, Kathryn. 2009. Elastic energy powers mantis shrimp punch. Journal of Experimental Biology. 212(24): iii.
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