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Related Articles:  Crustaceans

/The Conscientious Reef Aquarist

Mantis Shrimps, Smashers and Thumb-Splitters, Order Stomatopoda

By Bob Fenner

Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Malaysia


Beautiful, graceful creatures more often understood by loathing aquarists than kept, the Mantis "Shrimp" are more than loathsome marine pests. Making up four families of some 350 known species, the Order Stomatopoda can be welcome guests, even purposeful  livestock!

    Stomatopods (only distantly related to the other crustaceans which are real shrimp) get their insectorial appellation from their specialized forelimbs. Held up close to the body, they don't seem like much. Stomatopods can be divided into "smashers" and "spearers" depending on how they're armed, and these are amongst the fastest and most deadly gear in the animal kingdom. Spearing appendages bear anywhere from three to seventeen sharp spines that are used to impale soft prey, with the Mantis hiding in a hole or under  the substrate, bursting out to stab a fish or invertebrate. (this group encompasses the families Bathysquillidae, Lysiosquillidae, Squillidae, and several of the remaining family Gonodactylidae, the Peacock Mantis Shrimps.) 

     The smashers protection and food-gathering appendage ends as a enlarged heel. These animals typically feed on hard-bodied creatures (snails, true crabs, hermits, mollusks) which they stun, break open with a sudden strike. Smashing type Mantis tend to live more out in the open. 

       Stomatopods can be bought (!) as pets, but more just "show up" as live rock hitchhikers. While many can be accurately blamed for fish losses and other predation, requiring elaborate baiting, trapping to even complete tear-downs to extract them, some of the larger, grander species can be considered excellent species for captive use.    As you might assume Mantis are solitary, territorial animals... one to a tank is the rule.

    Some authors advise placing under-gravel plates or acrylic panels on the bottom of their tanks with Mantis in them... even some material along the lower inside edges of the tank to prevent their possible breakage (there are reports of glass tanks being destroyed by stomatopods of just a few inches length).  They need substrates of a few to several inches deep (depending on the species) and appreciate some larger rubble (which they'll likely contribute to with the remains of their meals), and plenty of rock hiding places. 

    Foods, feeding are easy with these animals. Meaty items (clam, squid, shrimp) should be offered on the end of a "feeding stick" (just a piece of rigid tubing will do)... never by hand! 

Genus Gonodactylus:

Gonodactylus curacaoensis, the Dark Mantis. To 1.5-2 inches. Tropical W. Atlantic.

Genus Lysiosquilla: Twelve described species.

Lysiosquilla scabricauda, the Scaly-tailed Mantis. Western Atlantic; Mass. to Brazil. https://www.sms.si.edu/irlspec/Lysios_scabri.htm
Roatan pic by TiffB

Lysiosquilla tredecimdentata, the Tiger Mantis. To 28 cm. Vietnam to w. Indian Ocean. Live in rubble zones. Here in Lembeh Strait.

Genus Lysiosquillina: Four species; spearers eating fishes, shrimps, crabs.

Lysiosquillina lisa Ahyong & Randall 2001. The Giant Mantis Shrimp. This species spends almost all its time at the very mouth of its burrow, evidently in wait for potential prey. Oblong shaped eyes may be of varying and changing color. Philippines and Indonesia. To about 20 cm. 

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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The images in this table are linked to large (desktop size) copies. Click on "framed" images to go to the larger size.
Lysiosquillina maculata (Fabricius 1793), the Zebra Mantis Shrimp. Indo-Pacific; East Africa to the Galapagos, Hawaii. One of the biggest stomatopods at about 40 cm. Here in Fiji off of Namena Is.

Lysiosquillinina maculata, the Tiger Mantis. To 40 cm. Indo-Pacific. Aquarium pic.

Genus Lysiosquilloides:

Lysiosquilloides mapia, the Golden Mantis. West Pacific. Fiji (Namena Is.) 2010

Genus Odontodactylus:

Odontodactylus brevirostris Short Beak Mantis. KBR 2011.

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available)

Odontodactylus latirostris Pink-Eared Mantis. Indo-West Pacific. Bali 2014.

Odontodactylus scyllarus (Linnaeus 1758), the Peacock Mantis Shrimp. Indo-Pacific, including Hawai'i. To eight inches in length. N. Sulawesi images. 

Verticals (Full/Cover Page Sizes Available
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Genus Pseudosquilla:

Pseudosquilla ciliata Checkered-eye Mantis. Circumtropical; common and highly variable in color and markings. Distinguishing characteristic are the checker-board marked eyes. At right one by Rob Bray in N. Sulawesi 2011.

To Remove or Not to Remove... Is that the question?    

Want one of these? How bout more than one?

Reproduction. Here's a pic of a female clutching a batch of eggs. N. Sulawesi. 

Some unidentified species pix for you!

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Mantis species... (Lysiosquilla sp.?) Here in N. Sulawesi, about 8 cm. in length. 


Bibliography/Further Reading:



Lurker's Guide to Stomatopods: http://www.blueboard.com/mantis/taxon/keys/super1.htm

Aw, Michael. 1995. Quick-draw claws. Brutal predators, aggressive lovers and formidable fighters. Stomatopods seem to live by the creed of "fight and be fought". Nothing, it seems. comes to these creatures without a struggle. Sport Diver. 11/12, 95.

Baensch, Hans & Helmut Debelius. 1994. Marine Atlas, v.1. MERGUS, Germany. 1215pp.

Barnes, Robert. 1987. Invertebrate Zoology. Saunders. 893pp.

Debelius, Helmut. 1999. Crustacea of the World. Atlantic, Indian, Pacific Oceans. IKAN, Germany 321pp.

Friese, U. Erich. 1985. Crustaceans in the home aquarium. TFH 5/85.

Gosliner, Terrence M, David W. Behrens and Gary C. Williams. 1996. Coral Reef Animals of the Indo-Pacific. Animal live from Africa to Hawai'i exclusive of the vertebrates. Sea Challengers, Monterey California. 314pp.

Grosskkopf, Joachim. Undated. Our family favorite: Odontodactylus scyllarus. the Mantis Shrimp. Aquarium Digest Intl. #53.

Kerstitch, Alex. 1982. Smashers and spearers. A look at the remarkable Mantis Shrimps. FAMA 2/82.

Kerstitch, Alex. 1993. Thumb-Splitters. SeaScope v.10, Winter 93.

Knaack, Joachim. 2000. Collecting Mantis Shrimp. TFH 9/00.

Michael, Scott. Mantis Shrimp. Why do these two words strike fear in the hearts of marine tank aquarists? AFM 2/97.

Stratton, Dick. 1998. Thumb Splitters. TFH 4/98.

Walls, Jerry G. 1979. Mantis Shrimp. TFH 11/79. 

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