The Bizarre Burrow Builder

Published July 3, 2013 in Invertebrates, MARINE LIFE

Wakatobi’s reefs are covered in a colorful carpet of corals, sponges and gorgonians that shelter a range of interesting creatures. To find one of the area’s most intriguing and bizarre animals of all, look beyond the growth to find a bare spot where coral rubble surrounds a small hole.

The Mantis shrimp or Stomatopod is not just another wimpy shrimp. It’s an industrious builder that roams the reef in search of materials to build elaborate burrows. The mantis is also a formidable hunter, with lightning-fast claws that smash or spear prey, and could give a diver a pretty nasty finger cut if provoked.

The signature eyes may cause the mantis to resemble a science fiction alien, but their vision is among the best in the marine world. Mounted on independent sockets on top of the head, each eye can rotate individually to track prey or predators ahead and behind. The mantis also sees the world with trinocular and polarized vision, and processes light in 12 different color channels, including ultra violet range (we humans can only see 3!).

It can be fascinating to watch a mantis shrimp go about the business of building or maintaining a burrow, or catching them darting around in search of a meal. Move in slowly and the mantis will keep going about its business. Look, but don’t touch, or you might get a painful demonstration of the incredible punch these bottom dwellers pack in their claws.


Film copyright Liquid Motion Film for Wakatobi Dive Resort