The ocean is packed with over 300 different types of shrimp. While most identify shrimp with the commercially available ones, there are a handful of others that many aren’t aware of, such as the pistol shrimp and mantis shrimp. These shrimps are known for their powerful defense techniques, some of which can instantly kill a larger animal or human. Below you’ll discover more about the differences between these two shrimp and how they protect themselves from predators and who would win in a fight, should the occasion ever arise
What is a Pistol Shrimp?
A pistol shrimp is known for its asymmetrical claws that produce a loud snapping sound when clicked together. When it pinches prey with these claws, it sends a stun gun-like sensation through their body to paralyze them, a feature that gives them their unique name.
What is a Mantis Shrimp?
A mantis shrimp is covered in colorful scales and uses its forelimbs to strike prey. Their forelimbs are so strong that one punch will immediately knock down and kill the target.
What are the Differences Between the Two?
There are quite a few differences between the pistol shrimp and mantis shrimp.
The pistol shrimp only measures 1-2 inches long and has a gigantic claw on one side of their body. This claw contains a propus which has a slight pocket in it. This produces a loud snapping sound when clenched together. The pistol shrimp has a vibrant red color but might have a few white spots or stripes on it.
Unlike the pistol shrimp, the mantis shrimp is extremely vibrant in its appearance. This shrimp will vary in its color combinations with some having flashy red and blue colors while others are solid green. At 8-10 inches long, it’s much larger than the pistol shrimp.
How They See Prey
Pistol shrimp can see a few colors with their eye photoreceptors, but their eyesight is somewhat dull. A mantis shrimp is one of the only creatures to see circularly polarized light. This includes horizontal, vertically, and diagonally. Their eyes are also able to rotate both clockwise and counterclockwise. This can help them to see their prey better.
Where They Live
While both of these shrimp enjoy somewhat warm water, their natural habitats vary. The pistol shrimp is usually found in tropical or temperate climates and enjoys hiding in coral reefs.
On the other hand, mantis shrimp like to live in sub-Antarctic water and will create burrows to live in. While most are nocturnal, a few will leave their burrows during the day to hunt for food.
Both of these shrimp have very vast diet needs. Pistol shrimp will munch on other small shrimp, like mysis and brine. Some might even try getting at small crabs, but they don’t usually succeed in this.
Because mantis shrimp are much larger, they will need bigger prey to survive on. This includes crabs, fish, and worms.
Pistol shrimp tend to have more predators than mantis shrimp because they are easier to catch. Some of the main pistol shrimp predators are triggerfish, lionfish, hawkfish, and wrasses. Mantis shrimp need to watch out for humans, bluefin tuna, and barracudas.
How Does a Pistol Shrimp Defend Itself?
While it’s a small animal, the pistol shrimp uses its large claw as its sole defense system. When it puts its claw on its prey, this will send an intense amount of heat, light, and sound through the use of bubbles into the prey’s body which immediately kills it. If this claw should somehow be damaged or get chewed off, it will automatically regrow.
If you hear strange popping sounds while snorkeling or swimming underwater, you more than likely are hearing the pistol shrimp releasing its dangerous bubbles. This loud pop is formed because the shrimp snaps its claw so fast that it affects the surrounding water pressure.
How Does a Mantis Shrimp Defend Itself?
A mantis shrimp is broken up into two different categories depending on how they defend themselves. They’ll either be a smasher or a spearer. If a mantis shrimp is a smasher, they will use their claw to punch their prey giving them a heavy blow. Sometimes a mantis shrimp can throw a punch that goes up to 50 miles per hour.
A spearer will use their pointed claw to stab their prey. When the shrimp grasps its claw on its prey, it creates a bubble-like sensation, known as cavitation bubbles, that shock the prey’s body.
Unlike a pistol shrimp, a mantis shrimp’s claw is designed to never break. This is due to a shock absorber built into it that stops it from cracking.
Who Would Win in a Fight?
While both of these crustaceans will be unforgiving to their prey during a fight, the mantis shrimp has a slight edge over the pistol shrimp.
The pistol shrimp typically grows to about 1-2 inches, whereas the mantis shrimp typically is about 8-10 inches. Thanks to its larger size, the mantis shrimp will have a significant advantage over the pistol shrimp.
If you correct for size, both have very powerful offensive capabilities. While the pistol shrimp relies only on the shockwave, the mantis shrimp has the physical hit PLUS the shockwave.
The mantis shrimp can take a hit better then a pistol shrimp, as it has a sturdier build.
In addition to this, a mantis shrimp is more aggressive and predatory and has better vision so it would probably take it 7/10 times.
Can a Pistol Shrimp Live in an Aquarium with a Mantis Shrimp?
Both of these shrimp shouldn’t live together in an aquarium or with any other type of shrimp. They can become very territorial, something which can result in them fighting and even killing each other.
While mantis shrimp usually need to live on their own in a tank, a pistol shrimp can safely coexist in an aquarium with rock-dwelling fish. These include blennies and clown gobies. These fish will provide the shrimp with protection while the shrimp will create large living spaces for them.
However, you’ll find that most professional aquariums will not have mantis shrimp because of their extreme aggressiveness. If there happens to be any other animal in their tank, they will usually punch and kill them. Their claws are also strong enough to break the aquarium’s glass which can make it difficult to safely keep them inside.
Pistol shrimp and mantis shrimp are unique sea creatures that each have their own interesting defense techniques. Despite their small size, they can wreak havoc in larger animals and even humans who dare to disturb them.