Mantis Shrimp: The ‘Thor’ Of Crustaceans

Peacock mantis shrimp clubs are much like Thor’s hammer, Mjölner, incredibly strong and incredibly tough, with an acceleration speed the same as that of a .22 caliber bullet.

Scientists have been researching what exactly makes this colorful shrimp so different, seeing as they are powerful enough to crack open the exoskeleton of a crab, or break a human’s finger, despite being only four inches long, according to Discovery News.

Study researcher David Kisailus, a materials scientist at the University of California, Riverside, stated:

“What makes [mantis shrimp claws] so incredible is that they’re stiff and they’re also tough, which is really kind of an inverse relationship in materials science.”

Discover Magazine reports that researchers have been studying molluscs for decades, in an attempt to engineer tougher armor. They were especially interested in the mantis shrimp, because, as Kisailus explains, “The mantis shrimp eats these guys for dinner.”

According to Scientific American, there are three sections to the shrimp’s club which, when put together, form an incredibly strong, crack-resistant weapon. The impact region of the club is made of hydroxyapatite, or HA, which is also found in vertebrate bones and teeth. behind the HA is an array of rods of chitosan, arranged much like a ream of paper, where every page lays in a different way, to protect against fractures. The sides of the claw are much less stiff, acting more like shock-absorbers.

Kisailus states of the design that:

“What nature has actually done is it’s actually built things so that, yes, flaws can happen, but when they do happen they’re not going to fail catastrophically.”

Using these design techniques, Discover News reports that Kisailus, as well as his colleagues, are working on materials engineered like the mantis shirmp, which can be used in aerospace engineering, automobiles, military body armor and even sports helmets.