The Pogues Can Be a bit sharp at times

The Pogues, singing the Broad Majestic Shannon, with lyrics here.


They have other songs that the Trio would like too.

I could imagine Drin singing “The Gentleman Soldier,” with all the gruff bits, mocking the man at fault, and making it rather horrible, and really not funny at all.



And of course there’s their cover of the veteran’s song, Waltzing Matilda.

“When I remember that terrible day

the bloodstains the sand and the water…”



Traditional Korean music

A piece performed on traditional Korean instrument called a gayageum, which is developmentally related to instruments larger than a western dulcimer.
AS the poster noted in a comment, these are like the Japanese koto, the Gucheng (China), and Dan Trank (Vietnam). From Korea there is also a very interesting one called Komungo, and one similar in shape but played with a bow called Ajaeng.

Korean Music: Gayageum piece – Arirang

In a comment by the original poster, performingasia, they noted:
well, I posted the video but I am not the person playing it. I took a 3 months Gayageum workshop at the National Center for Korean Traditional Performing Arts in Seoul. The person in the video, Eun Sena, is a teacher at that Center. She kindly allowed me to take this and the other videos.

This is a traditional fan dance, where you get some idea how the traditional dress, the hanbok, functions in dances, and how larger instrumental groups sound. The camera work is amateur, but watchable. Whoever arranged the choreography did a beautiful job.

Korean FanDance.AVI

Older classical viola music

To clarify here, the viola da gamba is *not* the same as a modern viola.
A collection curated by Mme. Hardy on live journal:

John Dowland, “Now, o now I needs must part”, performed by Dorothy Linell and Steven Rickards:

Dowland – Now, o now I needs must part

As she notes there:
Perhaps it’s just the way it’s always miked and performed, but there’s an alien-ness, an apartness to lute music; even when it’s chipper (and Dowland is definitely not). Renaissance and early music don’t wrap themselves around you in waves of love; they stand at the other end of the room and play. If you want to listen, well enough, and if not, they’re busy anyway.

If you like this sort of thing, you should also listen to Jordi Savall — start with the soundtrack for “Tous les matins du monde”. (Tous les Matins is late 1600s-early 1700s.) Savall has pretty much single-handedly returned viola da gamba and viol consort music to the spotlight. His various albums range from early music all the way through the Romantic period; I’ve loved all of them, early or not.
Tous Les Matins (Marin Marais, le Badinage):

Marin Marais – Le Badinage – Jordi Savall

the YouTube notes add:
J. Savall – Viola da Gamba R. Lislevand – Theorbo from the soundtrack of the film ‘Tous les matins du monde’

Also, a final note, Live performance of “La Follia”:

La Folia – Jordi Savall original Lyra Viola

from a comment by Scripturus on that Youtube, more information:
I think the listeners will appreciate this info:
This folia was composed by Antonio Martín y Coll, who was born on late XVII Century. It’s actual name is “Diferencia sobre las folías” and can be found within his “Flores de Música” compilation book. BTW, if I remember correctly the instrument played in this recording is a Pellegrino Zanetti six-strings bass viola da gamba.

In this vid of a live performance by Jordi Savall, you can see the way the viola da gamba is played, and you can hear it as dance music.

Jordi Savall, Hespèrion XXI – Pavana&Gallarda, Inozzenzo Alberti (1535-1615)

RE: Teeth

among the comments for Teeth:

RE: the audio, also very interesting stuff. I was struggling to pick up the wording (my speakers be cr**) until I looked at the lyrics. Interesting indeed.
from this site,

Future Foe Scenarios lyrics

Album: Carnavas (2006)
Buy Carnavas (2006) CD
Lyrics: Future Foe Scenarios

The things we laid do not amount to much
Made of abandoned wood loose stones and such

This revolution baby
Proves who you work for lately

Release the castaways who run amok
From self appointed winds which blow and such
When present tense gets strangled in the mire
Made of our cozy decomposing wires

Who do you work for baby
And does it work for you lately

But when the night is over and the walls start burning
When fire starts to matter and the clock is churning
Cliches and other chatter keeps our minds from

It’s alright

The things we laid do not amount to much
Made up of thought balloons and cotton swabs
When present tense gets strangled in the woes
Made of our future foe scenarios

This revolution baby
Proves who you work for lately
Who do you work for baby
And does it work for you lately

But when the night is over and the walls keep linking
When fire starts to matter and the clock keeps sinking
Cliches and other chatter keeps our minds from
Our minds keep thinking

It’s alright

That’s when it turned on me
A motorcade of ‘meant to be’s’
Parades of beauty queens
Where soft entwines make kindling
These many detailed things
Like broken nails and plastic rings
Will win by keeping me
From speaking to my new darling
And there’s no way to know
Our future foe scenarios
That’s when it turned on me
Where bobby pins hold angel wings

It’s alright

Giant Isopods and Coconut Crabs

This is an edited chat discussion with research links about giant isopods and coconut crabs as affecting design theory on crab-clawed bugs, or isopods as bug larva


why are they so cute looking!
8:28 PM
me: wow! Might be the rounded head outline
8:29 PM
They’re not spikey and threatening. The tiny version would be garden poly-polies

Stella: and the large eyes

me: y

Stella: like silk moths

me: y compre that to the mantis shrimps, which look badass, and you see these look cute
8:30 PM
A lot of kinds of moths look fuzzy and cute, come to think
8:32 PM
petition I think you’d get behind tooo
8:34 PM
heard an interesting NPR intereview, guy who’s been interviewing people and written a book about life inside the MExican drug cartels. Cutting off the cocaine trade flying directly ito Miami (very very profiable) drove the Colombian cartels to us overland through MExico. Of course th eMexican cartels grew and gained control. Now it’s a majorwar/insurrection because the gov’t has proven itself so corrupt that nobody can count on them for the rule of law.

WHo knew that the PRI kept a lid on all kinds of things with their lock on power 20 years ago?
8:38 PM
more on isopods, some of those pix came from this website

Giant Isopod

they say it’s terrifying
8:39 PM
further info
8:40 PM
Oh, here’s a great pic! They say it’s 2 1/5 feet long
8:42 PM
Stella: pretty cool huh

I think I looked up crabclaw image
8:43 PM
looking for stuff to morph

me: It looks more threatening unfolded where you can see the claws and mouth parts

Much more charming all curled up
8:44 PM
Stella: Y

me: ahh! Well, that one with it stretched out and the legs unfolded does have some great clawlike structures there
8:45 PM
This one has some spiny lobsters in there–looks like somebody cooked lunch almost!
8:46 PM
Which brings up the really awful idea–what if local folks in th swamp capture stra bugs (not implanted people, but the original bugs themselves) as young swimmers escaped as larvae from the bug labs? And they’re cooking them like shrimp or lobsters


8:47 PM
It’s bad when you ooog yourself out worse than anything other people manage.

I meant to say, stray bugs there
8:48 PM
Stella: ROFLMAO!

well, tit for tat yeah

don’t look like there would be much good eating on them

8:49 PM
me: The meat section supporting the legs, like the tail of the odder kinds of lobsters. Or more like crawfish, perhaps
8:50 PM
Ok, there’d be another question if I actually used that idea (blergh!1 argh! Calvin-an-Hobbes yucky face!!!)

because the implanted bugs have problems with germs in the swamp, fungla infections just knock them down in four days.
8:51 PM
But if the stray larvae can survive, that sugests a kind of bug that would thrive in the swamp. NOT goood news for our side!

as an ah-hah Now What moment, it could be pretty nasty.
8:52 PM
nasty grin

Might be Seung who ids it by the smell
8:53 PM
Stella: ONoly of there’s room for it in the story

me: That would explain more motivation for geting rid of the bug labs all at once, before they can further develop such “resistent” bugs

Dunno, that’s much later on

Stella: only if you can make room for that in the story…

make a not of it though

8:54 PM

me: But it’d be cool if that was a piece of info Seung brings to the table when he first meets everybody, a sort of, “oh, by the way, did you realize–”

Stella: yes

me: because he’s had a great deal of exposure to bug troops on the way to the keys etc

Stella: and i could so imagine him shrugging

and saying “yeah, we eat them
8:55 PM
me: oh god yes while everybody else freaks out

Stella: is good food

me: heeheh!

Stella: like big shrimps

me: yes

get tough if you cook too long

Stella: LOL

me: odd taste after, like oil

Stella: everyone wants to barf
8:56 PM
me: prolly because they’ve been trapping and eating the damn things like lobsters too

Stella: youknow there is anendangered crab in tahiti called the coconut crab

me: I actually sat down and watched a series of leisurely Cajun vids about how to build a modern-day crawfish trap. He uses zipties, frex.

Stella: used to be so big a woman could stand on one and it would walk withher on it’s back

me: I could see a guy like that feeding people on bug larvae!
8:57 PM
Stella: now they are eaten up too fast, no chance to grow that big

me: No, I didn’t know that! I bet the pix of that would be awesome

I’ve heard the name, had no idea they got big

Stella: they have a spot behind their head that is full of pure coconut oil

me: now there’s an intriguing thought

does anyone know why?

Stella: you roat the crab ion your beachside bonfire, crack it open, dip the meat in this heated coconut oil
8:58 PM
it’s a food supply for the crab

me: jeez, self-marinating

Stella: and au juice for crab eaters 😀


me: y!

Stella: so, our bugs might have a pouchof oil that you want to watch out for

me: yes!

Stella: don’t let it contaminate the meat
8:59 PM
me: that’s where that oily smell comes from later on

Stella: yes

me: the metallic bits are like a preservative, to keep germs from infecting the oil

what a cool idea!

Would Keisha know that bit about the crabs, or is it more of an Emma factoid?
9:00 PM
Stella: Keisha might not know about them because she doesn’t sail the pacific

me: Maybe heard stories from other sailors??
9:01 PM
the oil might have other properties too

can be enlarged tank in the flamethrower bugs

with toxic elements to it

like Greek fire
9:02 PM
Stella: good idea!

me: depending on the target, the bug can inject a jellying agent that makes the burning fluid cling to things

really nasty shit
9:03 PM
Stella: all of this should be written up and put into the library section

me: yes

maybe grab this chat text and pop it in as is?

I do like being able to go back and consult notes in chat

Stella: sure!

…chat about how to add related items deleted…

saved the pic of the isopods and the crabs on the tray looking like lunch

GOd, I am fond of the idea of Seung very offhandedly saying, those are baby bigs you know”
9:15 PM
or just pointing, saying, “Baby bugs”
9:16 PM
and maybe people have been eating those because the catch has been low on a lot of other things wherever those are found–eating their way through the ecosystem

Stella: Doc Alex if that’s his name?

me: So hunting them down would actually be doing the local animals a service

Stella: would be VERYUPSET

me: YES!


Stella: and curse like a motherfucker
9:17 PM
me: esp if the bugs also eat things like seagrasses and vegetable stuff and mow everything down to the nubs, omnivorous

Stella: people would be going “We ain’t been getting sick none, whats your problem

me: yews!!

sorry that was yes

Stella: I thought so


me: and the conundrum if you want to stop them causing damage, people need to catch more of them

now here’s a question–can Seung or Dance tolerate eating them?
9:18 PM
Or would they actually prefer them over other things??

Stella: Ooh yeha they should have no problem with them

cast iron stomachs aside
9:19 PM
there’s some shared DNA

me: Dr Alex might insist people ought to catch the bugs and kill em and feed them to fish (like trout chow) because less possbility of cross contamination than with feeding it to pigs or chickens

would that metallic oily smell put off the nagas?
9:20 PM
but I also bet plenty of folks will ignore the dr and eat em personally, or feed the scraps to the chickens

Seung’s ot a pretty strong set of tastebuds, he might like it as a sort of “tang”

Stella: ah. yeah, now that you mention it, theyare very attuned to that smell

it’s the smell of enemy

me: but there might be a sort of hunting instinct there which, instead of getting sick on it, it’s more like, nailed that sucker!
9:21 PM
Stella: and maybe the babies don’t reek as bad as the mature ones
9:22 PM
me: There’s also an interesting possibility that the bug larvae growing out in the swamp, tolerant of it, are so modified that they can’t be used YET for command and control and implanting people. That genetic change to tolerate the swamp has made them alien to their own hives
9:23 PM
They’d keep experimenting to cross that gulf, but for the time being, not getting overrun with swmapyt bugs. But it’s possible (here’s another idea) that the reason that Cesar etc were able to defy bug command is that they were implanted with bug larvae that were swamp tolerant

that’s why they can continue to exist in the swamp hiding out

and make everybody very nervous that bugs will come to tolerate fungi instead of falling apart
9:24 PM
Could be a fun scene where a hostile swampy blasts those guys with a faceul of Kombucha spores, and they just blink and wipe em off
9:25 PM
It’s sort of parellel to the threat of Dance and Seung–they make great allies, but if the enemy gets hold of them, it could get a lot worse
10 minutes
9:36 PM
me: I just flipped through a doll post (girl singer doll repainted) and I find… wait for it… the name of the band is Larvae Cure.

No joke.

Stella: you’re starting to think like a sci fi writer :*

me: starting to?

Ok, it was Larva Cure, no e

my bad

Stella: more than I’ve ever noticed really

me: ah

9:37 PM
sometimes the writing comes first and then you find something that fits it, in this case a cool idea sparks off plot ideas

AndI can always watch Seung when he wants to talk!
9:38 PM
You know, Drin might know about coconut crabs

he bummed arounquite a bit in that period he doesn’t recall very well between healing from bug burns and the motorcycle wreck


mantis shrimps and Circular Polarized Light

ETA October 27, 2009: Latest article on the shrimps from Sci Am Online:

…Unlike linearly polarized light, in which the electric field oscillates along a plane, circularly polarized light’s field twists like a spiral spring as the ray propagates. Such light is not commonly reflected from animal bodies and so was long dismissed as a virtual nonfactor in physiology, but research last year showed that some stomatopods have the ability to discriminate circular polarization. A paper published online October 25 in Nature Photonics unpacks the mechanism behind the mantis shrimp’s ability and concludes that its eyes handle circularly polarized light more effectively than man-made optical devices do…

…But the creature is physiologically remarkable in at least one other way: The compound eye of the peacock mantis, the new study’s authors found, harbors a natural quarter-wave retarder, a sort of filter that converts circularly polarized light to linearly polarized light, which then activates receptors below. “Biologically, this is unique,” says study co-author Thomas Cronin, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. “There is nothing else known anywhere in biology” that enables detection of circularly polarized light, he adds….

…The stomatopods reflect circularly polarized light from their bodies, so their ability to detect such light—and to parse clockwise from counterclockwise polarization—likely plays a role in signaling or identification. In some stomatopod species, reflection of circularly polarized light is sex-specific, which could play a role in sexual signaling or mate selection.

Wave retarders work by refracting light differently depending on the angle of its polarization, delaying one wave component of a light wave relative to the other. “If it’s just the right degree of delay, which is one-quarter wave or 90 degrees phase, that converts circularly polarized light to linearly polarized,” Cronin explains. But unlike wave retarders available commercially, which are tuned for specific wavelengths (and hence colors) of visible light, the wave plate in the O. scyllarus eye performs almost identically across the visible spectrum.

The mantis shrimp’s eye, Cronin explains, “works on a principle that is not used currently but could be used in manufacturing systems”—balancing the optical properties of the eye structure with those of the lipid molecules that fill the structure. “The two have different wavelength functions—they have different curves of changing retardance with wavelength—and so the animal trades them off,” Cronin says. “It trades off structure against material to cancel out the two variations.”…


Link that Kiya came up with, very cool ideas for how Dance may be generating/sensing polarized light.

Coiled ribbon sensors might be antennas capable of picking up CPL.

Mantis shrimps have th ability to pick up on circular polarized light (CPL), which no other animal on earth does.

They’ve evolved on their own since the Cretaceous, and they’re pretty damn strange in their own right. They also used to be the recordkeeper on fastest-moving animal reactions. Also interesting!

Also gorgeously colorful animals for a tropical saltwater aquarium, but they’re pretty large animals, which puts a strain on a system. Peacock mantis shrimps are popular, they can be 4” long. That’s big for an animal you keep in a burrow by itself. Oh yeah. No other mantis shrimps in there, very territorial. If it’s a spearing type? No fish. A hammer type? No shrimps, clams, etc.

Another article, from Wired about the same time in 2009 discusses the same technical possibilities from studying the eyes.

There’s a lot of videos of mantis shrimps online, moving around, attacking things like crabs, and many of the vids include the pistol-shrimp noise that the striking arms give. Some of the better-shot vids make it clear these are not merciful critters, they almost seem like they’re playing with their food.

Every vid that I looked at showed a totally different species. They all had a slightly different body shape and coloration, but they look sort of like a shrimp-centaur. Add a lobster-like heavy thorax with these weird round sensor-flaps at the front end of a long shrimp.

They are all alert, active predators. They don’t get the job done on a crab in one blow, and the crabs can hurt them back. But they keep coming at the poor crab. You’re warned: It’s kind of disturbing to watch, the crab doesn’t have a prayer.

I would say, shrimp is to mantis shrimp as snake is to dragon.
From Wired magazine online:


More elaborate information on the visual processing and eye structures can be found in Wikipedia:


…As became clear when Cronin finished explaining CPL and started talking about the animal, what gets these guys to the lab in the morning is the mantis shrimp itself.

“They’re enchantingly violent,” he said in an affectionate, almost paternal tone. “They catch other animals by either spearing it through the heart or smashing it to pieces. Unlike most predators that grab prey, these pummel it and destroy it. When they interact with each other over a burrow, they use their armored front appendages and smash each other on the face. Whenever they get into any type of situation, they smash things. You can’t pick these up. They’re really great animals to have around.”

Cronin seemed especially pleased that the shrimps’ visual uniqueness would return them to the record books. “The movement they use to hit prey used to be the fastest movement made by any animal,” he lamented. “But it turned out there was a jaw-snapping behavior in an ant that’s even faster.”…

…Cronin noted that some species have a CPL-reflecting patch on their tail, which they use to signal each other while negotiating mates or territory — but there are plenty of other ways to do this. Then again, when you and your possible opponent are so fundamentally bash-inclined, it makes sense to keep every possible communication channel open.

And channels the mantis shrimp has in abundance. Though CPL-sight is their greatest claim to optical fame, their eyes are chock full of weird cells and structures that let them distinguish between no fewer than 100,000 colors — ten times more colors than we can see…

So why do mantis shrimp — which followed a solitary evolutionary trajectory out of the Cambrian, developing a physiology so weird that scientists called them “shrimps from Mars” — have such marvelous eyesight?

“One idea is that the more complicated your sensory structure is, the simpler your brain can be,” said Cronin. “If you can deal with analysis at the receptor level, you don’t have to deal with that in the brain itself.”

There you have it: the world’s most sensitive eyes allow them to be simple! And smash things! And it’s worked for 400 million years…

More on the shrimp’s vision in another Wired article here:

peacock mantis shrimp
one of the prettier mantis shrimp


Like insects and other crustaceans, mantis shrimps possess compound eyes composed of thousands of rows of light-detecting units called ommatidia. These are especially refined in mantis shrimps, containing a mix of photoreceptors and filters that let them see 100,000 different colors — 10 times more than can be detected by humans.

Two decades ago, Cronin, along with co-authors Justin Marshall at the University of Queensland and the University of California, Berkeley’s Roy Caldwell, noticed that sections of the mantis shrimps’ ommatidia are arranged at a slant.

This suggested an ability to detect circular polarized light, in which photons follow a corkscrew path and ostensibly enter the ommatidia at a correspondingly slanted angle. After finding a species that seemed to send signals with a CPL-reflecting patch of exoskeleton, the researchers decided to test whether the shrimps’ oddball ommatidia really registered the light.

First they hooked severed eyes to electrodes to measure whether the cells energized when hit with circularly polarized light; they did. Then they trained the shrimps to associate CPL-reflecting boxes with food. The shrimps passed the test with flying colors.

Cronin said the shrimps probably use CPL to communicate during sexual and territorial encounters, though he doesn’t know why they evolved such a one-of-a-kind system. Further research may illuminate those origins — and, Cronin said, could help scientists refine their use of CPL in computer screens and signal transmission, where its tightly rotating configuration lends itself to loss-free transmission….

More elaborate information on the visual processing and eye structures can be found in Wikipedia:

Squilla mantis, showing the spearing appendages:

Both types strike by rapidly unfolding and swinging their raptorial claws at the prey, and are capable of inflicting serious damage on victims significantly greater in size than themselves. In smashers, these two weapons are employed with blinding quickness, with an acceleration of 10,400 g and speeds of 23 m/s from a standing start [6], about the acceleration of a .22 caliber bullet. Because they strike so rapidly, they generate cavitation bubbles between the appendage and the striking surface [6]. The collapse of these cavitation bubbles produces measurable forces on their prey in addition to the instantaneous forces of 1,500 N that are caused by the impact of the appendage against the striking surface, which means that the prey is hit twice by a single strike; first by the claw and then by the collapsing cavitation bubbles that immediately follow [7]. Even if the initial strike misses the prey, the resulting shock wave can be enough to kill or stun the prey.

The snap can also produce sonoluminescence from the collapsing bubble. This will produce a very small amount of light and high temperatures in the range of several thousand Kelvin within the collapsing bubble, although both the light and high temperatures are too weak and short-lived to be detected without advanced scientific equipment. The light emission and temperature increase probably have no biological significance but are rather side-effects of the rapid snapping motion. Pistol shrimp produce this effect in a very similar manner.

Smashers use this ability to attack snails, crabs, molluscs and rock oysters; their blunt clubs enabling them to crack the shells of their prey into pieces. Spearers, on the other hand, prefer the meat of softer animals, like fish, which their barbed claws can more easily slice and snag.

…Some species have at least 16 different photoreceptor types, which are divided into four classes (their spectral sensitivity is further tuned by colour filters in the retinas), 12 of them for colour analysis in the different wavelengths (including four which are sensitive to ultraviolet light) and four of them for analysing polarised light. By comparison, humans have only four visual pigments. The visual information leaving the retina seems to be processed into numerous parallel data streams leading into the central nervous system, greatly reducing the analytical requirements at higher levels.

One species has been reported to be able to detect circular polarized light

I would say, shrimp is to mantis shrimp as snake is to dragon.

Close-up of Pseudosquilla ciliata’s trinocular vision

Reasons given for powerful eyesight

The eyes of mantis shrimp may make them able to recognise different types of coral, prey species (which are often transparent or semi-transparent), or predators, such as barracuda, which have shimmering scales. Alternatively, the manner in which mantis shrimp hunt (very rapid movements of the claws) may require very accurate ranging information, which would require accurate depth perception.

The fact that those with the most advanced vision also are the species with the most colourful bodies, suggests the colour vision has taken the same direction as the peacock‘s tail.

During mating rituals, mantis shrimp actively fluoresce, and the wavelength of this fluorescence was shown to match the wavelengths detected by their eye pigments [2]. Females are only fertile during certain phases of the tidal cycle; the ability to perceive the phase of the moon may therefore help prevent wasted mating efforts. It may also give mantis shrimp information about the size of the tide, which is important for species living in shallow water near the shore.

Another theory is that the invertebrate brain is unequipped to analyse all the incoming data in real time and so the processing is performed physically by the eye…


…Mantis shrimp appear to be highly intelligent, are long-lived and exhibit complex behaviour, such as ritualised fighting. Scientists have discovered that some species use fluorescent patterns on their bodies for signaling with their own and maybe even other species, expanding their range of behavioural signals. They can learn and remember well, and are able to recognise individual neighbours with whom they frequently interact. They can recognise them by visual signs and even by individual smell. Many have developed a complex social behaviour to defend their space from rivals.

In a lifetime, they can have as many as 20 or 30 breeding episodes. Depending on the species, the eggs can be laid and kept in a burrow, or carried around under the female’s tail until they hatch. Also depending on the species, male and female come together only to mate or bond in monogamous long-term relationships.

In the monogamous species, the mantis shrimp remain with the same partner for up to 20 years. They share the same burrow, and there are reasons to suspect that these pairs can coordinate their activities. Both sexes often take care of the eggs (biparental care). In Pullosquilla and some species in Nannosquilla, the female will lay two clutches of eggs, one that the male tends and one that the female tends. In other species, the female will look after the eggs while the male hunts for both of them. Once the eggs hatch the offspring may spend up to three months as plankton…

…Many saltwater aquarists keep stomatopods in captivity. These aquarists may play a role in understanding the mysteries of the mantis shrimp. However, mantis shrimp are considered pests by other hobbyists because they can be transported unwittingly in a load of rocks destined for an aquarium. Once inside the tank, they may feed on fish, corals, and smaller crustaceans. They are notoriously difficult to catch when established in a well-stocked tank, and although there are accounts of them breaking and destroying glass tanks, such incidents are very rare…

An article on the mechanism of the smashing claw:

The mantis shrimp – the world’s fastest punch

… Mantis shrimps are aggressive relatives of crabs and lobsters and prey upon other animals by crippling them with devastating jabs. Their secret weapons are a pair of hinged arms folded away under their head, which they can unfurl at incredible speeds.
The ‘spearer’ species have arms ending in a fiendish barbed spike that they use to impale soft-bodied prey like fish. But the larger ‘smasher’ species have arms ending in heavy clubs, and use them to deliver blows with the same force as a rifle bullet.

Fastest claw in the west

mantis shrimp claw
fastest claw in the west

When Sheila Patek, a researcher at USC Berkeley, tried to study these heavy-hitters on video, she hit a snag. “None of our high speed video systems were fast enough to capture the movement accurately” she explained.
“Luckily, a BBC crew offered to rent us a super high speed camera as part of their series ‘Animal Camera’.” (Photograph above by Sheila Patek & Wyatt Korff)
With this cutting-edge equipment, Patek managed to capture footage of a smasher’s strike, slowed down over 800 times. What she found was staggering. With each punch, the club’s edge travels at about 50 mph, over twice as fast as scientists had previously estimated.*
“The strike is one of the fastest limb movements in the animal kingdom”, says Patek. “It’s especially impressive considering the substantial drag imposed by water.”Water is much denser than air and even the quickest martial artist would have considerable difficulty punching in it. And yet the mantis shrimp finishes its strike in under three thousandths of a second, out-punching even its land-living namesake.

The need for speed
If the animal simply flicked its arm out, like a human, it would never achieve such blistering speeds. Instead, mantis shrimps use an ingeniously simple energy storage system. Once the arm is cocked, a ratchet locks it firmly in place. The large muscles in the upper arm then contract and build up energy. When the latch is released, all this energy is released at once and the lower arm is launched forwards.
But Patek found that even this system couldn’t account for the mantis shrimp’s speed. Instead, the key to the punch is a small, structure in the arm that looks like a saddle or a Pringle chip.
When the arm is cocked, this structure is compressed and acts like a spring, storing up even more energy. When the latch is released, the spring expands and provides extra push for the club, helping to accelerate it at up to 10,000 times the force of gravity.

This smasher’s arm is truly state-of-the-art natural technology. “Saddle-shaped springs are well-known to engineers and architects”, explains Patek, “ but is unusual in biological systems. Interestingly, a recent paper showed that a similarly shaped spring closes the Venus’s fly trap.”

Killing with bubbles
Patek’s cameras revealed an even bigger surprise – each of the smasher’s strikes produced small flashes of light upon impact. They are emitted because the club moves so quickly that it lowers the pressure of the water in front of it, causing it to boil.
This releases small bubbles which collapse when the water pressure normalises, unleashing tremendous amounts of energy. This process, called cavitation, is so destructive that it can pit the stainless steel of boat propellers. Combined with the force of the strike itself, no animal in the seas stands a chance.
Large smashers can even make meals of crabs, buckling their thick armour as easily as they do aquarium glass. And they are often seen beating up much larger fish and octopuses, which are unfortunate enough to wander past their burrows. Not just a good right hook
Some scientists think that the mantis shrimps’ belligerent nature evolved because the rock crevices they inhabit are fiercely contested. This competition has also made these animals smarter than the average shrimp. They are the only invertebrates that can recognise other individuals of their species and can remember if the outcome of a fight against a rival for up to a month….