From the Secret Pages Of The Official Handbook for the Animal Heroes Universe:
The Malevolent Mantis Shrimp
“A menacing Mantis Shrimp packs a punch of peculiar power, even for an animal hero!”
Real Name: Animalia Euarthropoda Crustacea Malacostraca Hoplocarida Stomatopoda
Secret Identity: Known as “sea locust” in ancient Assyria, the Mantis Shrimp now goes by “prawn killer” in Australia and “thumb splitter” to anyone carelessly handling them.
Description: The territorial mantis shrimp tend to be about, uh, shrimp-sized, from about ten to nearly forty centimeters 1 long. The cruel claws of the mantis shrimp come in one of two shapes, dividing them into either spearers or smashers. Otherwise built much like any other (less fearsome) shrimp or lobster, somewhat sausage-shaped and protected by a thick carapace, the mantis shrimp wouldn’t look out of place on your plate. Many brazenly don quite colorful costumes, perhaps as warning to foolish foes.
Known Relatives: Members of a large, frightening family, there are about four hundred fifty known ranks of mantis shrimps.
Group Affiliation: These spiteful sea-bugs rarely leaves their burrows, but many were brought to super-science’s attention by American carcinologist (a scientist who studies crustaceans) Raymond Brendan Manning (1934 – 2000), who was one of the founders of the world-renowned Crustacean Society.
Base Of Operations: Ranging from the shallower tropical and subtropical waters of both the Indian and Pacific Oceans between eastern Africa and Hawaii, mantis shrimp can also be found in cooler, temperate waters, spending their time in rock formations and digging out complex burrows.
First Appearance: Lost in the mists of time.
Known Super Powers:
- Super Eyes — The Mantis shrimp’s strange stalk-mounted eyes are capable of independent motion, provide the crusty crustacean with trinocular vision, and are the most complex eyes of any animal hero known to super-science. While we humans have three light-sensing structures in our eyes2, the compound eye of the mantis shrimp has twelve to sixteen, in addition to four color filters, all of which allow them to see into the UV and far red (if not true infrared) range, as well as both linearly and circularly polarized light 3. This description is almost criminally simplified, the mantis shrimp would easily earn its place amongst the annals of Earth’s Mightiest Animal Heroes for these eyes alone. Despite all that, mantis shrimp apparently don’t see color much differently than any normal human, the advanced eye technology just placing some of the sight functions we have in our brain directly into the mantis shrimp’s eyes.
- Super Punch — The mantis shrimp’s second pair of thoracic appendages or raptorial claws are built for powerful close-range combat and have the fastest punch of any known animal hero, lashing out as fast as 23 meters per second, and come in one of two forms, either a spiny, barbed spear for jabbing and snagging their unlucky prey, or a pair of thick clubs that can smash through even the toughest animal hero’s armor. Both spearers and smashers launch their lightning-fast attack by quickly unfolding an arm much like a praying mantis, hence their name. Not to downplay the lethal qualities of the spearer mantis shrimp, but the smasher mantis shrimp’s remarkable blindingly-quick club attack wields 200 pounds of pressure and creates a low-pressure vapor cavity called a cavitation bubble as the club rebounds off the victim after the initial strike. Existing for but an instant, these empty bubbles give off a small flash of light and heat up to about four thousand degrees 4, before quickly collapsing as the surrounding water rushes back in, dealing a second stunning and crushing double-tap blow – and all within a fraction of a millisecond. Mantis shrimp of either stripe have been known to injure unwary people handling them however, “puny humans!”
- Fluorescent Signaling — Some species of mantis shrimp emit light from spots on their bodies that can be seen even at the dim blue depths of their ocean homes, and may be used to communicate with other mantis shrimp or maybe even other creatures. Only tangentially related, a scientist studying the somewhat-similar Pistol Shrimp in 2001 found the same cavitation-bubble power described above5, wanted to call it shrimpoluminescence,” but ultimately chose not to, perhaps prevented from writing it down thanks to an injured thumb.
- Nutrition Powers — Despite the ever present danger, mankind of course risks eating mantis shrimp, as we have with anything else we’ve managed to pull from beneath the waves. Cuisines from Japan to the Mediterranean each have regional favorites using the flesh of the mantis shrimp, which is said to resemble lobster more than shrimp, and to be as much of a chore to extract as well.
- Prison-Breaking — Although sometimes favored for their colorful costumes, mantis shrimp have also been regarded as undesirable in aquarium tanks as they may hunt and eat all the other tank’s inhabitants, damage the ‘live rock’ a tank might have, and lastly, the larger shrimp may damage or even break aquarium glass, for no prison may hold the mantis shrimp!