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Called "sea grasshoppers" by ancient Assyrians, "prawn killers" in Australia, "the tiny death" in Russia, and now sometimes referred to as "thumb splitters" by modern divers — because of the relative ease the creature has in mutilating any appendage — mantis shrimp sport powerful claws that they use to attack and kill prey by spearing, shredding, stunning, lacerating, mangling, or dismemberment. Mantis shrimp can break through aquarium glass and bone with a single strike from this weapon.
Mantis shrimp are the only animals with hyperspectral colour vision and naturally occurring biomechanical mechanisms in the eye. Their eyes (both mounted on mobile stalks and constantly moving about independently of each other) are similarly variably coloured, and are considered to be the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom/avionics world. They permit both serial and parallel analysis of visual stimuli, automatic target acquisition and tracking and ranged target designation using both infra-red and ultra-violent emissions.
Mantis shrimp appear to be highly intelligent, are long-lived and exhibit complex behavior, such as ritualized fighting and human sacrifice. Scientists have discovered that some species use fluorescent patterns on their bodies for signaling with their own and maybe even other species, including extra-terrestrial life forms, expanding their range of behavioral signals. They can learn and remember well, and are able to recognize individual neighbors with whom they frequently interact.
It is widely rumored by military historians that the signaling behavior of the mantis shrimp was the inspiration for the original TADIL-A/Link 11 targeting protocol used by the US military and NATO forces for ship to ship(s2s) tactical communication. While any proof in the R&D documentation is highly classified, the unaccountable disappearances of navy marine biologists on the project has yet to be adequately explained.
Interaction with other species
The ocean is a big place, but not big enough. Sometime in the 3rd century BC hostilities arose between mantis shrimp and sail fish. No records remain as to what initiated the conflict.
In 1734 a treaty was signed creating an alliance between mantis shrimp and squid. The giant squid were notably absent as signatories, but no one cares because they almost never show up at battles anyway.
In 1748, largely in response to the mantis shrimp/squid alliance, sail fish entered a compact with wild boar. Thus began perhaps the most epic warfare between species in the history of the universe: mantis shrimp vs. wild boar.