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July 2016    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 31, No. 7   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Mantis Shrimp Magic

from the July, 2016 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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The mantis shrimp is big. Typically it can be around eight inches long. Some are even bigger. Tropical divers are familiar with them and their compelling ability to smash the shells of prey with a fist-like limb. Yet few know that it is inspiring research into everything from cancer-detecting technology and polarized lenses to strong and lightweight composite materials.

That fist, or 'dactyl club,' can accelerate to 50 mph in just three-thousandths of a second, moving so fast it boils the water in its path. It creates a sonic shockwave that can kill or stun small prey that come too close. However, it needs to be exceptionally tough to do that. For example, its "periodic region," at the internal portion of the club, has spiral-shaped structures that act as tiny shock absorbers soaking up energy....


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