The mantis shrimp: Still awesome, but not for the reason you thought


but it still has its bad ass murder sticks right?


But science giveth and taketh and then giveth back again, because it still turns out that the mantis shrimp is using a mechanism for color vision that nobody has ever documented before.

It doesn’t see extra colors—but it can see FEAR.


Yes. Thank god.


It’s not all moonbeams and rainbows for the mantis shrimp. There’s work to do. Crevices to pry jerks out of. Anal fins to gnaw off. Nudibranchs to denude.


I love it when our understanding of something changes without any net loss of awesomeness.


My life’s experience suggests this is the rule, rather than the exception.


Just in case you want a mantis shrimp friend to hug - Squishable had a fan made design that’s pretty cute.

People with reef aquariums that use ‘live rock’ sometimes get mantis shrimp as hitchhikers.
They’re almost impossible to get rid of, eat other fish, and earn the nick-name ‘thumb splitter’.


So, it can’t see squant?

But, but, but … this is all missing the coolest thing of all about mantis shrimp.

Not only are they capable of seeing linearly polarized light, they can distinguish the polarization angle. And, on top of that, they can even detect and distinguish circularly polarized light!


Also, Ze Frank shares True Facts About the Mantis Shrimp that are at least as swell as its advanced eye-cone technology.


So… basically they see like Geordi LaForge?

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They are also apparently delicious:

Blasphemers! The Mantis will consume all the unbelievers!

So instead of millions of colors, they see sixteen?? The article is remarkable unhelpful in explaining what they do see.

Denuded Nudibranch is my new favorite tongue twister

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They see red, green, blue, and then I’m guessing about 12 different variations of polarized light. Which they use in coloring their tails to communicate with other mantis shrimp, because only the other mantis shrimp can see the patterns in the tail, and receive the message.

Imagine there’s all these people around you, and your paramour has these plates on their forehead. And only you can see them. Your lover can send you messages and nobody else, not even the NSA, can see that the messages are even there, let alone decipher them.

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Am I the only one that is amazed that the researchers managed to train shrimp to distinguish colors? In the study they measured the shrimp’s ability to see color by training it to associate particular colors with a reward. I would have thought cephalopods would be the only invertebrates with sophisticated enough brains to be conditioned in such a fashion; you’d think shrimp would be closer to the intellectual level of insects.

Learning by conditioning is common, though; even some flatworms will learn to avoid certain prey. There are lots of examples in insects, and while they’re mostly in response to smells, searching finds reports of visual conditioning in at least some cases like honeybees. So I would guess it is widespread in types that rely a fair bit on sight, for which both honeybees and mantis shrimp definitely qualify.

Also, are we sure crustacean brains are so much less sophisticated than say fish? Because watching them both in aquaria, they don’t seem obviously dumber, and yet fish very plainly can learn to distinguish where food is coming from (and there are color experiments done on them too).