July 8, 2013
Pounding On Glass And Shells… And Pretty Much Everything Else
Forget Kevlar – the peacock mantis shrimp is bringing a new force to be reckoned with to the table. With the ability to jab faster than a .22 bullet and more colors in its visual spectrum than a unicorn jumping over a rainbow, this little stomatopod is not to be screwed with.
Some basics about the mantis shrimp. For one, it has a much more varied type of eyesight than humans … by a lot. Humans have three color-receptive cones in their eyes to see colors: red, green, and blue (as well as all variations of red thereof, like purple, orange, yellow, etc). We know that dogs have two color receptive-cones (green and blue) and butterflies have five color-receptive cones (red, green, blue, and two unknown). Well, the mantis shrimp has a whole heck of a lot more color-receptive cones. Not seven, not nine, but a whopping sixteen different levels of colors. If we can see beautiful, colorful rainbows in the sky after the rain with only three color-receptive cones … just imagine how much more colorful that rainbow is to a peacock mantis shrimp, who has more than five times the amount of color-receptive cones in its eyes. Ridiculous, huh?
There’s also the matter of them pretty much beating their dinner to death. Their forelegs look like little clubs that sort of jab out and beat the daylight out of the target. These little dudes can’t even be kept in glass aquariums – they can bust through a quarter inch of glass like no one’s business. And that’s only the first half of it. Mantis shrimp strike their prey so hard, that the water around their appendages during the time of strike actually boils, creating a type of underwater shockwave that is strong enough to kill prey, even if the mantis shrimp just so happens to miss its target. So on top of Ivan Drago-esque walloping, the mantis shrimp can also boil water (we all know what’s really important, don’t we?).
Which is why scientists are trying to model armor based on the composition of these tiny fists. A professor at UC Riverside runs a lab that studies these small destroyers, a lab whose work is funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Engineers in the lab have managed to create a panel of material less than an inch thick and about a square foot in size that mimicked the structure of the mantis shrimp’s tiny fists of fury. They then proceeded to fire high velocity rounds at it.
The sheet of man-made mantis shrimp claw material sustained a few cracks, but survived.
The bullets were crushed.
What would it mean to have soldiers or law enforcement protected by this synthetic super material? Would they be better protected, or would it inspire the design and creation of weapons capable of destroying this ridiculously overpowered evolutionary discovery and scientific breakthrough? This small creature is an absolute phenomenon of nature, an evolution that no one could have seen coming and could not have been predicted. Will discoveries based on it help or hinder humanity?
Regardless of the answer, there is one thing that is certain.
Jousting would sure get a whole hell of a lot more interesting with mantis shrimp inspired armor.
For more information about the Peacock Mantis Shrimp, check out the following links:
Image Credit: Beverly Speed / Shutterstock