[image found at Space Oddity's Spore Blog]
The peacock mantis shrimp (aka the harlequin mantis shrimp and the painted mantis shrimp) is not a true shrimp, but a species of crustacean (Odontodactylus scyllarus). Their habitat is in the Indo-Pacific, from Guam to East Africa.
The peacock mantis shrimp range in length from about three to eighteen centimeters (1.2 – 7 inches) and their most unusual feature is small appendages, called dactyl clubs, that they use to smash through mollusk shells, the heads of small fish, bivalves, and even glass aquarium walls (they make interesting and colorful aquarium specimens, but they must be kept separate from other creatures, and the walls of their aquaria must be constructed of shatter-proof acrylic).
The dactyl club appendages have been studied by chemical and material engineering scientist David Kisailus and his associates at the University of California, Riverside.
The striking surface of the club is highly crystallized hydroxyapite (a variety of calcium carbonate (bone material)), which provides superior compressive strength. Beneath the calcium carbonate, chitin is cross-layered in a dense array to prevent the formation of fractures. The sides of the club are also constructed of chitin, which places the club under compression. The club’s structure allows it to endure incredible impact forces. The animal’s punching velocity of 80 km/h (50 miles/h) is the fastest ever recorded and the punch acceleration is equivalent to a .22 caliber handgun.
David Kisailus and his colleagues have plans to use their findings to create materials for synthesis and engineering use in protective sporting equipment, crash-resistant vehicles, and body armor.
The combination of intriguing colors (predominant shades of green, with orange legs and anterior spots) and super-human punching abilities begs for a new comic-book super-hero…