News / Industry News & Events / Mantis Shrimp Can Punch Each Other to Death But Prefer to Resolve Conflicts Peacefully (01/17/18)

Mantis Shrimp Can Punch Each Other to Death But Prefer to Resolve Conflicts Peacefully


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When an argument comes to blows, its especially devastating for a mantis shrimp. Their punches are powerful enough to break glass, so if they fight amongthemselves, a disagreement could be fatal.

But a new study shows that mantis shrimp communicate without trying to kill each other.

Scientists at Duke University decided to create some conflict between mantis shrimp in order to see if and when they would resort to drastic violence to solve it.They took pairs of mantis shrimp of a certain species,Neogonodactylus bredini, and gave one of each pair a burrow. Then they sent the other to the area to see if they would fight over the burrow.

The mantis shrimp didnt immediately deploy their powerful weapons to knock each other into the next world. Instead, they went through several phases of communicating to demonstrate how fit they areand why theyre formidable opponents.

First, they flicked their antennae. Then, they raised up the front of their body to show off. If neither animal left the ring, they sparred by nonlethally tapping each other on the hard shells on their back.

"These 'phases'are indicative of how they are assessing each other," Patrick Green, an author of the study, wrote toNewsweekin an email. Green is a biomechanics researcher at Duke University.

After they had assessed who was the fitter contestant, one mantis shrimp would move away from the burrow, and to the victor goes the spoils. The research was published Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Why didnt the mantis shrimp punch their opponent to the death? Non-lethal displays are common in the animal kingdom. This behaviorcommunicates that an individual has plenty ofresources andcould harm their opponent, so the opponent might as well just back off. Its a good idea, evolutionarily speaking, for the smaller, weaker individual to take a hint and live to try again later.

Furthermore, killing and maiming members of your own species isnt a good survival tactic for a population. Thats why fights for mates involve locking horns, but not goring each other. Even if you win a fight and kill your opponent, a full-fledged bout of violence is likely to leave both participants damaged.

However, if you are the prey of a mantis shrimp, you arent likely to receive this type of communication. Theyll go straight for the kill. Mantis shrimp can move their appendages as fast as a speeding bullet, and their strength is enough to break glass and boil water. Luckily for smaller members of these rainbow, aquatic creatures, conflicts within the species rarely come to blows.