Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Pistol Shrimp - Nature's Crack Shot

When you think about the loudest animals in the ocean, usually whales come to mind. Some whale calls are among the loudest noises on earth and can be heard for many miles around. However, a significant amount of noise in the ocean is provided by a much smaller, 1-2 inch long shrimp called the Alpheidae, or pistol shrimp.
Pistol shrimp each have one specialized claw that is larger than the other. They are capable of snapping this claw together to produce a tremendous noise of up to 218 decibels; louder than a gun blast or a jet engine! The noise these shrimp produce is significant enough to actually disrupt sonar in submarines.

Though this snapping noise is often used for communication, pistol shrimp also use their unique abilities to hunt. When they snap their claws together a low pressure bubble is formed and a jet of water is shot out at 60mph. When this bubble collapses it momentarily produces a flash of light that is as hot as the surface of the sun! The shockwave from this collapse can easily stun the shrimp’s prey, allowing it to drag it back to its burrow for consumption.

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