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Cape mantis shrimp

Cape mantis shrimp

Mantis shrimps are so named because of their similarity to praying mantises. Twenty-five species of mantis shrimp occur off southern Africa, mostly in tropical waters. They live in burrows or in rock and coral reef crevices and aggressively defend their territories against intruders.

Mantis shrimps are highly specialised predators, either ‘spearing’ or ‘smashing’ prey with large grasping limbs. ‘Spearers’ hunt by ‘spearing’ soft-bodied prey e.g. shrimps and small fishes with a swift upward lunge of a barbed ‘finger’ on the grasping claw. ‘Smashers’ strike and disable their prey e.g. crabs and molluscs by using the reinforced heel of the grasping limb. The force behind the strike is similar to a small-calibre bullet and can easily crack the glass of an aquarium!

The Cape mantis shrimp is the only species to occur off the West Coast. These shrimps live in burrows which they hollow out in soft sediments. They often occur in large swarms near the surface where they are preyed on by seals, hake and other fishes.

Cape mantis shrimps are ‘spearers’ and have 6-8 teeth on the finger of the grasping claw. They grow to 20cm in length.