I am going to start building a collection of posts about specific species of mantis shrimp; including photos, general information, and the research that they have been a part of. I will make an index for these posts and update them periodically with additional information. First up is the mantis shrimp that I spent most of my summer with:
Adult size: Up to 44 millimeters
Distribution: Northeast Australia,
General information and care: Roy’s List
H. trispinosa is very common at our field site, living in small burrows in coral rubble. We typically collect them from intertidal habitats, but they can be found deeper as well. Though they appear a drab tan or cream color at first glance, they actually have some beautiful color accents up close. These include orange antennae, blue spots on the back, and beautiful blue maxilliped mouthparts that are held front and center, just below the head.
Much of the recent research on this mantis shrimp has focused on these blue maxillipeds. The light coming from them is polarized and they are almost certainty used for visual communication. Also, their wide habitat depth distribution has made them ideal for studying the adaptation of photoreceptors to variable light environments through tuning of light filters in the eyes. Social interactions and chemosensory have also been studied in H. trispinosa.
I predominately use these animals for behavioral learned choice experiments, in which I train them to associate a food reward with a particular light stimulus. Thus we can ascertain the functional limits of their visual systems. These experiments exploit the intrinsic predatory behavior of this mantis shrimp. For the majority of the day they will sit in the entrance to their burrow, scanning the water column for a potential snack. When something delectable drifts by, they lunge out, snare their target and dive back into their burrow. This behavior, called “hawking”, gives us a clear response when we present them with a stimulus choice.
Here is the best video I managed to get fo this behavior from an animal in one of my artificial burrows in an aquarium:
Selected research about H. trispinosa:
- Cronin TW and Caldwell RL (2002) Tuning of photoreceptor function in three mantis shrimp species that inhabit a range of depths. II. Filter pigments. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 188; 187-197.
- Cronin TW, ShasharN, Caldwell RL, Marshall J, Cheroske AG, and Chiou TH (2003) Polarization Vision and Its Role in Biological Signaling Integr. Comp. Biol. 43: 549-558 doi:10.1093/icb/43.4.549
- Mead K and Caldwell RL (2011) Mantis Shrimp: Olfactory Apparatus and Chemosensory Behavior. Chemical Communication in Crustaceans 3: 219-238, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-77101-4_11