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In Photos: Mantis Shrimp Show Off Googly Eyes

Crazy Eyes

mantis shrimp

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwel)

The peacock mantis shrimp, like this juvenile Odontodactylus scyllarus, are smashing superheroes. The colorful crustaceans have a hammerlike claw that can smash prey with the acceleration of a 0.22-caliber bullet — not unlike Thor's mythological weapon. Turns out, they also have super vision, sporting 12 different types of photoreceptors when four to seven are all that is needed.

Purple-Spotted Mantis

purple-spotted mantis shrimp

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

Researchers reporting in the Jan. 24, 2014, issue of the journal Science figure out the mantis shrimp's unique color vision system. Despite the baffling number of photoreceptors, the creatures, like this purple-spotted mantis (Gonodactylus smithii), couldn't easily discriminate between similar colors in a lab experiment.

Baby Peacock Mantis

a juvenile peacock mantis shrimp

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

To account for this seeming lack of superb color vision, researchers suggest mantis shrimp (juvenile peacock mantis shown here) each of their 12 photoreceptors is set to a different sensitivity. That way they can scan objects with all photoreceptors without the need for complex neural processing.

Shrimpy Vision

peacock mantis shrimp

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

Unlike human eyes, which are equipped with three types of photoreceptors that send signals to the brain for comparison, mantis shrimp eyes create a pattern that is recognized as a color almost immediately, the researchers find. As such, mantis shrimp like this juvenile peacock mantis, shown here, lose some of their ability to discriminate between colors; even though they may not be able to tell the difference between light orange and dark yellow, for instance, they would easily detect basic colors without having to making comparisons between wavelengths of light in their brain.

Dinner?

Here, a mantis shrimp (<em>Lysiosquillina sulcata</em>) looks at a damselfish (<em>Chrysiptera cyan.</em>).

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

Here, a mantis shrimp (Lysiosquillina sulcata) looks at a damselfish (Chrysiptera cyan.).

Near Miss

The mantis shrimp <em>Lysiosquillina sulcata</em> just misses the damselfish <em>Pomacentrus coelestis</em>.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

The mantis shrimp Lysiosquillina sulcata just misses the damselfish Pomacentrus coelestis.

Got It

Score! The mantis shrimp <em>Lysiosquillina sulcata</em> catches the damselfish <em>Dascyllus melanurus</em>.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

Score! The mantis shrimp Lysiosquillina sulcata catches the damselfish Dascyllus melanurus.

Googly Eyes

The <em>Odontodactylus cultrifer</em> mantis shrimp shows off its amazing eyes.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

The Odontodactylus cultrifer mantis shrimp shows off its amazing eyes. The unique color vision saves the mantis shrimp energy, which they need in the combative world of coral reefs where they live, say researchers.

More Peepers

Here, the eyes of the mantis shrimp <em>Pseudosquillana richeri</em>.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

Here, the eyes of the mantis shrimp Pseudosquillana richeri.

Shrimp Eyes

Another look at the eyes of the mantis shrimp <em>Pseudosquillana richeri</em>.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

Another look at the eyes of the mantis shrimp Pseudosquillana richeri.

Japonicus Eyes

The eyes of the mantis shrimp <em>Odontodactylus japonicus</em>.

(Image credit: Image courtesy of Roy L. Caldwell)

The eyes of the mantis shrimp Odontodactylus japonicus.