It’s been a while, but I’ve gotten the itch to get back to writing here. Lets jump back in with a bang!

Last month. I finally got a hold of the species of mantis shrimp that many would consider the crown jewel of Stomatopoda – Odontodactylus scyllarus.

Odonotodactylus scyllarus. You can see her smashing appendage on the bottom left.

Personally I think O. scyllarus is a little too gaudy, completely without subtlety of appearance or demeanor; more of a painted tramp in my estimation. This particular animal is a female, as evidenced by the rusty carapace color. Males tend to be more green-ish.

This species is commonly referred to as a ‘Peacock Mantis Shrimp’ for obvious reasons; they are a riot of color. In addition to the color we can see, they also sport an impressive array of polarized signals around their bodies. They can make good use of these visual cues with sixteen spectral classes of photoreceptors and have been trained to discriminate color, linearly polarized light, and circularly polarized light.

O. scyllarus is also one of the largest true smashers, reaching over 7 inces in length. When you hear about mantis shrimp that can break aquarium glass, they are likely referring to this genus. They have been shown to generate strike forces with their calcified dactly hammers of up to 1500 Newtons, and can lash out at speeds of 20 meters per second.

O. scyllarus hails from the Indo-Pacific waters, and are found in slightly deeper waters, generally between 10 and 30 meters.

Brushing off the attenules with modified scrubbers on the first maxillipeds.

Hmmmm, I wonder why they are called ‘Peacocks’?

Finally, below is a video showing off the wild eye movements that this animal makes.

You’ll notice that each eye pans and rotates on multiple axes independently. They can do this and retain depth perception because each eye has independent range-finding capabilities. In order for optical range-finding you need at least two spatially separated visual fields observing the same point. We can use our two eyes together for binocular depth perception. Mantis shrimp on the other hand, have trinocular depth perception in each eye.

This is evidenced by looking at the pseudopupils. The pseudopupils are the areas of dark facets looking directly at the camera that seem to move around the compound eye of the mantis shrimp. You’ll notice that when an eye is looking directly at the camera, there are three spatially separated pseudopupils. Thus, by having three separate parts of each eye looking at the same point in space, mantis shrimp possess the capability for trinocular depth perception.


For information about aquarium care of this popular pet species, check out Roy Caldwell’s page.


  • Marshall, J. et al., 1999. Behavioural evidence for polarisation vision in stomatopods reveals a potential channel for communication. Current Biology, 9(14), pp.755–758.
  • Marshall, N.J., Jones, J.P. & Cronin, T.W., 1996. Behavioural evidence for colour vision in stomatopod crustaceans. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 179(4).
  • Chiou, T.-H. et al., 2008. Circular Polarization Vision in a Stomatopod Crustacean. Current Biology, 18(6), pp.429–434.
  • Patek, S.N., Korff, W.L. & Caldwell, R.L., 2004. Biomechanics: deadly strike mechanism of a mantis shrimp. Nature, 428(6985), pp.819–820.


    1. Michael Bok says:

      Thanks Ted, I’ve got about an hour of footage about identical to that if you are hungry for more. 😀

  1. Skye says:

    I love your blog! I’m currently a Scientific Illustration major at VCU and I’m working on a research/illustration project which includes the exterior anatomy/special characteristics of an invertebrate marine creature. I’ve chosen the Mantis Shrimp, (and I’ll probably focus on the O. scyllarus). That choice, in the midst of some preliminary research, has led me here! I look forward to reading more about your research and rooting through the archives of Arthropoda…keep it up! :)

    1. Michael Bok says:

      Skye, I’m glad you discovered mantis shrimp and my site. They should lend themselves well to art work. Is there any chance to see some of the work you do for your project?

      1. Skye says:

        Of course! It’s due the 29th, so I’d be happy to post a link to the final product thereafter

        1. Skye says:

          I still have to make a few corrections on the layout, but here’s the (nearly) final product:

          and some research/progress work/the paintings by themselves:


          1. Michael Bok says:

            Very nice! Mind if I repost this up top sometime?

  2. Skye says:

    Sure, that’d be great! Do you mind waiting for the version with the corrections I need to make? I figure you might as well have the best copy if you’re posting it! (I can send it to you as soon as I finish up)

    1. Michael Bok says:

      Sure! One correction from me, the eyes don’t have 360 degree movement. I can look up what the actual rotational limits are if that would help.

      1. Skye says:

        Ah, yes, that doesn’t even really make a whole lot of sense… I’m surprised no one (besides you) has pointed that out yet! Pff that’s what you get when you finish your project at 5 am. Anyhow, I would very much like to know the actual rotation limits, thank you!!

        1. Michael Bok says:

          “In the gonodactyloids, the compound eyes are able to move with unusual freedom on all 3 rotational axes. They can swing horizontally (in azimuth) and vertically (in elevation) through 120 degrees or more, and can rotate on the eyestalk axis by at least 70 degrees (Cronin et al. 1988; Land et al. 1990). ”

          That is from Cronin et al (1991) Optokinesis in gonodactyloid mantis shrimps.

          And it is referencing :
          1. Land et al (1990) The eye-movements of the mantis shrimp Odontodactylus scyllarus (Crustacea : Stomatopoda)

          2. Cronin et al., (1988) Ocular
          tracking of rapidly moving visual targets by stomatopod crus-

          1. Skye says:

            Thanks for this great information Michael! I have a limited amount of space for information, but I’ll see what I can add from this. They really are fascinating creatures! I’ll send you a picture soon

          2. Skye says:

            Hello! I’ve finally heard back from my teacher about the edits and here’s the final version:
            Sorry it took so long to update!

  3. Zemyla says:

    Mantis shrimp have the ability to see 12 different colors and circular polarization, but can they see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?

  4. Lisa says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you could give me the name and/or email address of the photographer/owner of the photos. I would love to use some of the photos for reference for an oil painting i’m working on, and would love to ask permission, Thanks.

  5. Adele says:

    Absolutely gorgeous!! I just discovered your great blog, I’m doing a PhD mammalian cones (rightfully boring in comparison to these beauties!!).
    Do you mind if I ask what you use to shoot these beautiful vids and field pictures? Do you have special macro lenses?

    1. Michael Bok says:

      For these shots I used a Canon T2i body with a reverse mounted 50mm f1.8 lens (the cheapest lens Canon sells with a 12 dollar reverse mount I got on Amazon).