Shrimp-like creature is quite the catch

Shrimp-like creature

Shrimp-like creature caught off Florida creates quite a buzz; photo by Steve Bargeron

A Florida angler has reeled in a mysterious creature that looks to be a cross between a lobster and shrimp, and photos of this odd-looking crustacean, dangling from a fishing line, have captivated the Internet audience.

Steve Bargeron snapped the photos after watching another fisherman reel the 18-inch critter out of the water. Both had been fishing from a dock in Fort Pierce.

Shrimp-like creature

Another view of what’s believed to be a large mantis shrimp; photo by Steve Bargeron

Bargeron sent the images to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which on Thursday posted them on its Facebook page. By Friday morning the post had been shared nearly 3,000 times, and received hundreds of comments.

"That's exactly why I don't go into the ocean," one person wrote.

The FWC did not identify the critter, but based on its appearance and Bargeron's description—when it was pulled out of the water it was violently snapping its tail—the agency believes it's "some type of mantis shrimp."

If that's true, the fisherman who caught the shrimp was smart to have grabbed it by its back, like one might grab a lobster, and fortunate not to have been injured.

The mantis shrimp is in a class of its own in terms of power. Within its shell are hinged arm-like claws, with fist-like clubs at their ends. They lash out with the speed of a .22-caliber bullet—the fastest punch in the world—and literally smash the shells of prey.

The claws can shatter clam shells, crack open crab shells, and even deliver a knockout blow to an octopus. (See accompanying video.)

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In 2001, a 4-inch mantis shrimp, as an unnoticed stowaway, made it into an exhibit at California's Monterey Bay Aquarium. The shrimp wreaked so much havoc that it became the subject of more than 200 newspaper articles. The carnage this mighty beast unleashed was covered nationally on TV.

The "killer shrimp" remained elusive and pulverized sea snails, hermit crabs, barnacles, and other critters that were on display. Their remains littered the bottom of display tanks.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium blog noted: "The claws are made of material so hard it can deliver 50,000 blows between molts—without breaking. It's being studied by scientists as a model for crafting super-strong body armor for soldiers. And it moves its claws so fast that they turn water into plasma and sound into light."

The mantis shrimp possesses remarkably sensitive vision—it can see in both infrared and ultraviolet spectra, and uses 16 receptor cones, versus just three for humans.

On Friday, the FWC had not responded to an inquiry asking if the critter had been positively identified as a mantis shrimp, or what type it might be, but that was the consensus among those commenting about the critter.

Reads a comment from Jason Wike: “Pretty sure this is a mantis shrimp, and at this size it could break your arm with a strike.”

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