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Not Only is the Mantis Shrimp Stronger Than Airplanes, Its Club-like Appendage is Faster Underwater Than a 22-Caliber Bullet

By John B. Virata | April 24, 2014

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The Mantis shrimp is pretty much a bad ass in the saltwater aquarium hobby. It doesn't get bullied often but rather, is a bully, decimating most anything that it can hit with its club-like appendages.

Now researchers with the University of California at Riverside, the University of Southern California and Purdue University have taken what they know of the mantis shrimp and developed a composite material that they say is more impact resistant and stronger than the standard composite materials used in airplanes. The researchers video taped the mantis shrimp’s club in action and determined that the acceleration of the club when it strikes an object creates cavitation in the water, shearing the water and creating bubbles that implode, which also strikes the shrimp's prey, creating a secondary impact.

mantis shrimp
The mantis shrimp's club is stronger than composite materials made for airplanes. Photo by Carlos Puma

The mantis shrimp's fist-like club can accelerate faster underwater than a 22 caliber bullet and can strike its prey thousands of times without breaking at a force of impact that is 1,000 times its own weight.


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Mantis Shrimp Setup

The Mantis Shrimp


Previous research revealed that the mantis shrimp's club is built of several regions, including an endocuticle region that is built of a spiraling arrangement of mineralized fiber layers that serve as a shock absorber and create the strength of the shrimp's club. These helicoidal structures were then duplicated by the researchers using carbon fiber epoxy composites, based on the structure of the mantis shrimp's club. Two control structures to examine the impact resistance and energy absorption of the structures were also built. What they found was the makeup of the mantis shrimp club is stronger than the duplicated structures, ranging from 20 to 50 percent less damage than the sample structures.


The club structure of the mantis shrimp
The club structure of the mantis shrimp.
"The more we study the club of this tiny crustacean, the more we realize its structure could improve so many things we use every day,” David Kisailus, a Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Science and the Winston Chung Endowed Chair of Energy Innovation at the UC Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering said in a press statement.

An abstract of the study of the strength of the mantis shrimp's club can be found at the Science Direct website.

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Not Only is the Mantis Shrimp Stronger Than Airplanes, Its Club-like Appendage is Faster Underwater Than a 22-Caliber Bullet

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