WATCH: Mantis Murder Shrimp (Slow Motion)

The peacock mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) from the Indo-Pacific region is only little, growing to no more than 30 cm, but it sure packs a powerful punch. 

Not only can it break tough crab shells and aquarium glass with that punch, but the peacock mantis shrimp can swing its club-like appendages so fast, the acceleration is comparable to that of a bullet exiting the muzzle of a gun. Plus the speed of this punch can cause the pressure in the immediate area to plummet so fast, it produces bubbles, which move into areas of higher pressure, collapse and form shock waves that produce enough heat to rival the temperature of the surface of the Sun.

So what exactly is going on here? How can such a little sea creature produce such incredible force?

In the latest episode of Smarter Every Day, Destin heads to James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, to watch a peacock mantis shrimp ‘punch’ open a glass test-tube containing a delicious crab. But that’s not all he did. Destin also learned that the force of that punch is created by an internal structure in the mantis shrimp that bears an uncanny resemblance to a Pringle, both of which are shaped like a hyperbolic paraboloid

Now comes the next very important question - how can the peacock mantis shrimp produce such incredible force, over and over, every time it wants a meal, all while keeping its tiny arm-clubs intact?

It turns out that the peacock mantis shrimp club is reinforced through the layering together of many pieces of material, just as plywood is. Watch the latest episode of Smarter Every Day above to find out how this layering makes the surface strong, while the rest of the arm is perfectly structured to distribute the force.

Love science? If you want the Great Barrier Reef to be your real-life science lab, find out more about joining the explorers of the tropics and studying at JCU.