Dwelling on the ocean floor is a beautiful small crustacean called a mantis shrimp. Decked out in vivid shades of blues and greens with trimmings of purples, oranges and reds, this four inch shrimp is one of the most colorful creatures in the ocean.
However, if you find one while out diving, I would warn you to take caution before trying to pick it up. The claw of the mantis shrimp is as deadly as the shrimp is beautiful. It can strike out at any predator or prey with lightning speed. The force of its impact can crack open the shell of a crab and break the finger of an unsuspecting diver. Many fisherman refer to the mantis shrimp as the ‘thumb splitters.’ Mantis shrimp have even been known to use their claw to break the glass of aquariums they are being kept in.
The strike of the mantis shrimp claw has been measured at 75 feet per second (51 mph) with a force of 200 pounds of impact. The speed of the strike is so fast in the water that it creates air bubbles that also impact their target at about half the force of the claw.
Scientists have long been amazed at the strength and durability of the claw of the mantis shrimp. Engineers at the University of California, Riverside are studying the claw in hopes of learning the secrets of its composition and design. Assistant professor at the Bourn’s College of Engineering, David Kisailus said,
This club is stiff, yet it’s light-weight and tough, making it incredibly impact tolerant and interestingly, shock resistant. That’s the holy grail for materials engineers.
To find their answers, Kisailus and his team used an electron microscope to get a detailed look at the actual internal structure of the shell of the claw. What they discovered was a marvel of design in three distinct regions of the claw.
First is the area of the claw, called the striking surface, which is involved in the actual impact with their target. This area is largely composed of hydroxyapatite which is the same calcium rich substance that makes our bones so hard. They observed that the hydroxyapatite was arranged in pillars that were at right angles to the striking surface. It reminded them of the concrete pillars that support many bridges.
Supporting the striking region is the second area called the periodic region. This region consists largely of the carbohydrate molecule known as chitosan. The chitosan is arranged in long chains that lie just below the striking region. The long chains of chitosan are stacked up on top of each other with each one occurring at a slightly different orientation than the one above or below it. This changing pattern was arranged in such a way that any crack that formed would be blocked from cracking further down into the structure.
Third was the striated region, located along the sides of the striking region. The researchers equated the striated region to the taping of a boxer’s knuckles to prevent them from being cut or splitting open. This made the possibility of any cracking of the claw less likely from occurring in the first place.
Kisailus and his colleagues are already implementing these engineering design features into the design of such things as military body armor, sports helmets and automobile bodies.
If any of the three regions were missing from the mantis shrimp claw, there would have been a greater likelihood that the claws would eventually crack and split open after the hundreds of impacts each claw takes. In order for the claw to function properly, all three specially designed regions had to have formed at the same time. And now God’s design features are being incorporated into modern day products. Our use of this design did not happen by chance and neither did it happen by chance for the mantis shrimp.
When you see just how wonderfully designed each region is and how necessary they all are to total function, there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that God specially designed the deadly claws of these beautiful little shrimp.
Pappas, Stephanie. Take That Thor! Secret of Hard-Hitting Crustacean Claw Found, Live Science, June 7, 2012.
Smith, Brett. Shrimp Fight Club: ‘Holy Grail For Materials Engineers’, Red Orbit, June 8, 2012.
A delightful nature story in ‘Dr Seuss-style’ rhyme about an oxpecker bird who removes ticks and other nasties from the skin of a giraffe, for the benefit of both.With captivating artwork, it uses these two zany characters to teach about God’s design, and about relationships, in a way that young children can easily understand and enjoy. (Primary/Elementary) 32 pages