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Shrimp Claws as Fast as a Speeding Bullet

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

Juvenile snapping shrimp can achieve the fastest acceleration of any repeatable, underwater motion by any living thing.

Snapping shrimp probably has the mightiest claws of all creatures in the ocean. With a powerful snap of its spring-loaded appendage, the tiny crustaceans shoot out a prey-stunning air bubble - when it pops, it releases a shock wave, a flash of light and a noise about as loud as a gunshot. That's why it's often called the pistol shrimp. It's sonic weapon is, literally, stunning.

“We can’t see the bubble with our naked eyes, it happens too fast, but we can hear when the bubble collapses,” says Jacob Harrison, a biomechanics researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

The adult snapping shrimp’s rapid claw click is one of the fastest-accelerating repeatable body movements ever recorded underwater. But now, in a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers report that juvenile snapping shrimp have smashed that record, accelerating their claws shut about 20 times faster than their parents.

While some terrestrial animals can accelerate body parts quicker than the snapping shrimp - dracula ants and some termites can clamp their jaws in powerful bites - these creatures are pushing against air, not water. In the ocean, jellyfish can shoot out their harpoons about 100 times as fast as the shrimp, but the action is not repeatable.


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