Meeting with a Mantis…

Serina Rahman is the co-founder of Kelab Alami and a Visiting Fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore

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Mantis shrimps

Mantis shrimps are known locally as ‘udang lipan’ and are a very popular seafood. They are also infamous on YouTube for the speed and power of its clubs (forearms) that smashes its prey; and some experiments have measured the strike to hit 83km/h! Research has shown that the force of its clubs can reach 1500 newtons – even if the shrimp misses direct contact with its prey, the resultant shock waves will kill its victim.

Other species of mantis shrimps have forearms with very sharp pincers, which can quickly spear soft-bodied animals. Depending on the exact species of mantis shrimp, they devour snails, crabs, prawns, bivalves and fish.

The (seemingly laid-back) juveniles of these species are often spotted in the seagrass meadows of Mukim Tanjung Kupang, and local fishermen often bring back the adults as by-catch. Mantis shrimps are long-lived and can be monogamous, staying with one partner for 20 years.

Mantis shrimps are also unique in that their eyes are mounted on stalks and they can move independently of each other. In some species, their highly complex eyes are polarised and can detect both UV and infra-red light. This helps them avoid predators such as barracuda, as well as helps them read the fluorescence of potential mates and spot prey on coral reefs.

Mantis shrimps

Kelab Alami conducts seagrass habitat walks in the seagrass meadows at the lowest tides. With luck, you might be able to spot a species so fierce, but so popular as seafood! Log on to kelabalami.weebly.com for more information.

**All photos were taken during Kelab Alami’s long-term coastal habitat, flora and fauna documentation and monitoring studies; now funded by the Johor Port Authority.