Pistol Shrimp Vs Mantis Shrimp Smack Down: Here's The Winner!

Oluwatosin Michael
Feb 29, 2024 By Oluwatosin Michael
Originally Published on Jan 07, 2022
Learn interesting pistol shrimp vs. mantis shrimp facts here at Kidadl!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.1 Min

The beautiful, wide ocean carries a variety of shrimp, some readily available and some that people aren't even aware of, like the pistol and mantis shrimp.

Both these aquatic animals are known for their amazing self-defense techniques despite their size. If the occasion ever arises where they are attacked or are attacking their prey, they will give them a tough fight.

The pistol shrimp is a member of the family Alpheidae, which includes the group commonly known as snapping shrimp. These decapods are known for having an asymmetrical set of claws, one of which can snap at a speed of under a fraction of a second, producing a powerful bubble bullet that can stun prey instantly. The mantis shrimp, in reality, is not a shrimp at all. It is, in fact, a stomatopod that is known for having powerful claws that can either grasp prey or hammer into them at speeds that are 50 times faster than the human eye can blink and heat up the surrounding ocean water or reef to a temperature equivalent to the surface of the sun. In other words, if we pit the pistol shrimp against the mantis shrimp, the fight would be like a lethal gun versus a deadly hammer, albeit a fight that should never really happen in real life.

If a pistol shrimp and a mantis shrimp were in a battle, it is unlikely that the pistol shrimp would win the fight. Mantis shrimp have an advantage in size over pistol shrimp. The mantis shrimp is about 8-10 in (20-25 cm), whereas the pistol shrimp is just about 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm). Both the crustaceans share the ocean with 300 different types of shrimp, but if put in a tank together (which is a bad idea) they will end up taking each other's lives. The smasher variety of mantis shrimp attacks by slamming the lower edge of its dull, calcified claw down with such force and speed that it can shatter a snail's shell, smash out portions of a rock wall, or even break a finger.

If you like learning new things about animals and their unique characteristics, you should check out other fun articles about mantis shrimp facts and gecko vs lizard.

What is the difference between pistol shrimp and mantis shrimp?

Many differences can be found between a pistol shrimp and a mantis shrimp. The differences are based on appearance, size, vision, diet, predators, and even the defense technique they use.

A pistol shrimp is 1-2 in (2.5-5 cm) and red in color with white spots or stripes. It has asymmetrical claws that produce a loud snapping sound when clapped together. They are also known as 'snapping shrimp' as they can snap and kill their prey. When it uses these claws to pinch prey, it sends a stun gun-like sensation through their bodies, paralyzing them, which is how they got their name. Pistol shrimp have photoreceptors in their eyes that let them perceive a few colors, but their vision is poor. These shrimp prefer to hide among coral reefs and can be found in tropical or temperate areas. They need a warm temperature where they can enjoy the warm water. Other little shrimp, such as mysis and brine, are eaten by the snapping shrimp. They even try to catch little crabs, but they rarely succeed. Triggerfish, lionfish, hawkfish, and wrasses are some of the most common predators of pistol shrimp.

Mantis shrimp are usually about 8–10 in (20–25 cm), and they can be found in flashy red, blue, or green colors.

One of the few organisms that can see circularly polarized light is the mantis shrimp. Horizontally, vertically, and diagonally are all examples of this.

Their eyeballs may also rotate in both clockwise and counterclockwise directions. This will allow them to view their prey more clearly. They prefer sub-Antarctic water and would dig a burrow for shelter. While most of them are nocturnal, a few will venture out during the day to seek food. Because mantis shrimp are significantly larger than pistol shrimp, they will require more prey to survive. Crabs, fish, and worms are examples of this. Humans, bluefin tuna, and barracudas are all dangers to mantis shrimp.

Is a pistol shrimp stronger than a mantis shrimp?

A mantis shrimp is stronger than a pistol shrimp. Both the shrimp species are species with extreme predatory power, but the mantis shrimp has a sturdier build than a pistol and is at an advantage.

Despite its small size, the pistol shrimp relies solely on its large claw for defense. When it places its claw on its victim, it sends an extreme amount of heat, light, and sound into the prey's body via bubbles, killing it instantly. This claw will instantly regrow if it is damaged or eaten off in any way. If you hear weird popping sounds while snorkeling or swimming underwater, the pistol shrimp is most likely spewing its hazardous bubbles. The pistol shrimp snaps its claw so quickly that it influences the surrounding water pressure, resulting in a loud pop.

Depending on how they protect themselves, mantis shrimp are divided into two types. They'll be either spearers or smashers.

If a mantis shrimp is a smasher, it will use its claw to hammer its victim, delivering a powerful impact. A mantis shrimp's punch can reach speeds of up to 50 mph (80.46 kph) on rare occasions. A spearer will stab their target with a pointed claw. When a shrimp grasps its prey with its claw, it causes cavitation bubbles, which cause the prey's body to be shocked. The claw of a mantis shrimp, unlike that of a pistol shrimp, is engineered to never break. This is owing to a built-in shock absorber that prevents it from cracking.

A common fact about both pistol shrimp's and mantis shrimp's strength is that they produce intense cavitation bubbles that reach temperatures nearly as high as those on the sun's surface, resulting in a glow. The glow, however, is too faint and rapid for us to notice without the aid of specialized equipment. Pistol shrimp use their strength both defensively and potentially competitively.

Amazing self defense techniques of aquatic animals

Can a pistol shrimp kill a mantis shrimp?

Yes, pistols can kill mantis shrimp, but mantises have more power over them. These crustaceans are very territorial. For the same reason, a pistol shrimp and a mantis shrimp cannot share the same space. They will fight to the death if kept together in the same tank.

The mantis shrimp is characteristically better than pistols. They get an edge over pistols not just because of their size but also because pistol shrimp rely solely on shockwaves, whereas the mantis shrimp has both physical and shockwave hits. Mantis also have better vision, increasing their power over the snapping shrimp. A professional aquarium would keep both separate due to the mantis shrimp's aggressiveness. On the other hand, snapping shrimp can share their space in a tank with other species.

Is the pistol shrimp the strongest animal in the world?

The pistol shrimp, found in the shallows of the tropical ocean, usually near healthy coral reefs, possesses abundant power, making it a strong animal species.

The great claw of the pistol shrimp, also known as the chela, is present on either the left or right side of the body and is disproportionally massive, measuring half the length of the body. On either side of the finger joint, it features a deep notch. The other claw is typical in size and has not been changed. With its snapping claw, the pistol shrimp makes a loud, staccato, concussive noise. The sound is made as the claw closes quickly, resulting in a high-speed water jet. This forms a small, short-lived cavitation bubble, and the bubble's quick collapse creates the sound. At the same instant, a spark is created. The noise of the snap is intended to scare away predators and stun prey, as well as for show. Worms, small crustaceans, and fish like gobies and pearlfish are eaten by this shrimp. This great jaw and many other cool features do make it a super powerful tiny sea species, but there are many more creatures found in the ocean to watch out for when it comes to power and other related characteristics.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully curated content with lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for pistol shrimp vs mantis shrimp smackdown: here's the winner, then why not take a look at European Polecat lifespan to learn amazing animal facts, or how many earths can fit in the sun? curious universe facts for kids.

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Oluwatosin Michael

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

Oluwatosin Michael picture

Oluwatosin MichaelBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology

With a Bachelor's in Microbiology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Oluwatosin has honed his skills as an SEO content writer, editor, and growth manager. He has written articles, conducted extensive research, and optimized content for search engines. His expertise extends to leading link-building efforts and revising onboarding strategies. 

Read full bio >