Most people are afraid of weapons, because these are usually dangerous and lethal . But what would happen if you suddenly find a Pistol Shrimps, who has his own deadly weapon.
This is a kind of shrimp just like the others, but he has a small and sonorous difference, his deadly weapon, a powerful claw that emits a sound like a shot.
Table Of Content
- 1 Characteristics of Pistol Shrimps
- 2 Pistol Shrimps’ Behavior
- 3 Pistol Shrimps in couple
- 4 Shrimps Pistol in their Caves
- 5 How do Pistol Shrimps Hunt
- 6 Reproduction of Pistol Shrimps
- 7 Shrimp Copulating
- 8 Offspring Developing
- 9 Packaging of Shrimps for Export
- 10 Benefits of Shrimps
Characteristics of Pistol Shrimps
This is the common name of these crustaceans. They belong to the family Alpheidae, and they are the only specimens, that can generate such a powerful snap. The Pistol Shrimp is a decapod crustacean, like most of this species.
Generally, these shrimps have a dark brown body, or brown green, with a large amount of rounded small spots in pale green , even yellowish; which form transversal bands. They can also be wholly white.
This species of shrimps is characterized by the excessive growth of one of its claws or periropods, which makes these appendages asymmetrics . This is the reason why this small crustacean receives his name, since this claw or pincer generates a short transient acoustic signal when it closes.
This pincer produces a very strong shock wave, that is able to compress the water bubbles, that now are directed to the prey, which can die immediately, or be stunned so that the shrimp will continue his attack.
Pistol Shrimps like all the others shrimps are invertebrates, and they are also very small, because they grow to only five centimeters in length. They usually live in big colonies located inside caves
According to the scientists, the snap of the pincer is only employed for offensive and defensive purposes, because just as it is used to hunt, he also does so to defend himself against a possible rival or predator. This snap produces a jet of water that can scare anyone who gets too close.
The researchers also assert that the biological meaning of the sound produced by this click or snap , plays a very important communicative role.
How does the Snap Sound?
This peculiar characteristic of Pistol Shrimps was already known by scientists, who had studied the crustacean for a long time. However, it was not until 1942 that the mystery of the loud noise produce d by the Pistol Shrimps with their pincers was revealed.
To get the final conclusion , several laboratory tests were developed to different specimens, in different fields of study, and different populations from different habitats; in order to know the truth, since in 1887 the sound was mistakenly attributed to the opening of the dactyl.
Since that time, many researches have been performed in different parts of the world, describing the sound of the clicking as one of the most pervasive sources of underwater noise.
Given the power of the sound produced by the Pistol Shrimp, none other sound exceeds it in importance, since it is believed that it can even interfere with the measurement and recording of Bio Acoustic signals that submarines make in shallow waters.
In this video you will hear the sound produced by the snap of the claw of a pistol shrimp in a fish tank.
The physical phenomenon produced when the pincer closes, is known as cavitation, and it is a sound that reaches according to the experts, the two hundred and eighteen decibels. This snap is so fast that it produces a jet of water that shoots out more than one hundred (100) kilometers per hour.
This movement is so fast that pulverizes the water, making a bubble that reaches five thousand (5000)0 kelvins, (according to scientists,), which is the temperature at the surface of the Sun, and it is very difficult to perceive at first sight, since it only lasts one millisecond.
Pistol Shrimp Close Up
An expansive wave is produced and depending on the size of the victim it can be stunned or killed . Therefore, the shot doesn’t come directly from the claw, but from the hot energy of the bubble. This is in itself cavitation, when the water is forced to move.
This sound can be emitted by the shrimp with a simple snap and when it occurs in a population or colony of these crustaceans, it turns out to be a continuous high crunch. The noise produced by these shrimps is highly penetrating, although it usually varies during the day.
It is believed that the constant crunch of the shrimps colony is so powerful, that it could be heard on the surface of the water if it were quiet ,. This is due to the fact that the closing of the claw produces an acoustic signal with a very wide bandwidth, with components over two hundred KH.
This theory was recently discovered, thanks to the use of a system that allows recording at high speed, and another one of acoustic detection, which provides tools for studying the behavior of this species in its natural habitat.
In this video you can watch how the Snap of the Pistol shrimp occurs.
Habitat and Distribution of Pistol Shrimps
Shrimps in general, live in all the waters of the world, either freshwater or in the sea, and the Pistol Shrimps are not the exception, so you can find these small crustaceans around the globe.
These creatures are benthic, which means they spend their lives in the depths of the ocean, but sometimes, they also develop other behaviors and could even live at different water levels.
For example Pistol Shrimps can be found on coral rocky bottoms, as well as coral reefs, coral reef cavities, debris, and coral cracks. Although it`s not very common Pistol Shrimps can even live on sponges, bryozoan, and intertidal reefs of sabellid polychaetes.
Pistol Shrimps are distributed throughout the American Continent, specially in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico; likewise, as they feel very comfortable in the warmer waters, they are also present throughout the Caribbean Sea, mainly in Brazil.
Learning How these Shrimps live in Fish Tanks
Pistol Shrimps group in pairs , making a cave where they can live. Since they really like corals, it is recommended to place one of these, or a similar structure, so they could feel comfortable.
You must also have enough sand so that shrimps can dig, since their hobby is to make caves, which they always try to keep neat.
Although the Pistol Shrimps are extremely small, you must take into account the size of the aquarium where they will live, and the number of specimens that will be introduced into it.
These crustaceans are usually very temperamental, especially males, so enough space is required for everyone to cohabit in peace. In the same way you should keep in mind what kind of animals are going to share this ecosystem with the shrimps, because as we already know, these creatures have a powerful weapon that can easily break the shells of other shrimps . They could even break the glass of your Fish Tank, if it is not strong enough.
Pistol Shrimps’ Behavior
Some scientists have labeled these shrimps as crazy, and it is because of their temperamental nature, ; it’s the same for them to attack a puffer fish, or break the shell of an unsuspecting crab. They seem more like quarrelsome than gentle sea shrimps.
In general, males of all species always have the largest chubs , talons, and teeth, and the largest and heaviest bodies. It is very common also that these males are more aggressive than females. In the Pistol Shrimps species, there is not much difference.
Males Pistol Shrimps are much more aggressive than females, which is the reason why they have their tongs torn, in comparison with those of females. According to different studies that have been performed the bigger the male’s pincer, the more aggressive his behavior is.
Pistol Shrimps in couple
The males of this species are more tolerant among each other, they even prefer to share their caves, before facing with one of them. This is the reason why they can live in colonies of Pistol Shrimps, within a reduced space.
But when it comes to another species, the Pistol shrimps don’t have any considerations or contemplation, so they are willing to use their best weapon to attack them without mercy.
But females Pistol Shrimps are not left behind, although they are less aggressive than males, they also fight bloody battles to defend their territory. Unlike the males, the females only tend to fight with the females, always avoiding a confrontation with the males of their species.
Shrimps Pistol in their Caves
Since this species was recently discovered , there are still many unknown aspects about Pistol Shrimps. For example there isn’t yet a certain explanation, about why females behave more aggressive among them, than against females of other species.
There is a theory about this; since males tend to share their caves with other males, thus females don’t fight for territory , but for partner. It is quite possible that they prefer to have more males, and not to share them with the other females.
So they are not aggressive with the females of other species, since these even become in the food of their partners . So then, this could be a bout of gender, in order not to share the males, and have a better chance for reproducing
In spite this behavior, they can also share their caves with a partner, and with other fish. This is almost a business, because the shrimp is responsible of cleaning chores while the fish guarantees the safety they need.
Watch the behavior of the Pistol Shrimps in this video.
How do Pistol Shrimps Hunt
These shrimps have a very peculiar way of hunting, since they are conscious of the powerful weapon they have, which is extremely effective, and helps them get their food successfully. This is why these creatures remain hidden or entrenched in their caves , waiting for a potential prey to pass close to them.
Once they visualize their prey , they load their pincer as if it were a magnum of high caliber, and then when the victim is close, the weapon produces the click that emits the bubble of water which hits it strongly.
In some cases, the impact is so strong that it kills the victim immediately, and some other times, the impact only stuns it , so that the Pistol Shrimp has the opportunity to attack it and finish his job.
Sometimes this depends on the size of the prey, and how accurate the blow can be, since occasionally, the victim can face his attacker, and fight. Even sometimes, the Pistol shrimp loses one of his pincers, so his has to abandon the fight.
Although this is not a serious problem for these crustacean, because when they lose the main pincer, the remaining pincer grows becoming the main one . The pincer that was lost also regenerates, but this time it will be the second pincer, and the process starts once again.
That is why you can see specimens with the largest pliers both in the left clamp, as in the right clamp.
Reproduction of Pistol Shrimps
The exact moment for the reproduction of the Pistol Shrimps, is just after the moult of the female’s exoskeleton, because it is in this right moment, when her skin is as soft as needed . In some species, the male looks for the female that is about to change her exoskeleton, and waits for her, but in the case of the Pistol shrimps, they live as a couple in the same cave, so the male only has to wait for her to be ready to mate, and while she has her body susceptible to predators, he is the one who protects her.
Once the female is ready for mating, they interweave and the copulation can last several seconds. After having copulated, the shrimps remain together for hours, and sometimes they can even spend days together swimming in the same way.
As we mentioned before, the study of this species started a short time ago, so we don’t have enough details about this process; even males have been observed who don´t consider it necessary to wait for the female to moult her exoskeleton for mating, and they try to interact with several females, because they don’t have a partner in the cave..
In this case, it seems to be casual sex, because once they have copulated, they both separate and don’t swim together, as the couples who live together do. This behavior is being studied.
But it can also be similar to a non-consensual sex, since in many occasions the females are victims of the violent nature of the male, and they usually lose one or more of their appendages, during the fight and copulation.
During the copulation the female Pistol Shrimp, produces a gelatinous mass between her fourth pair of legs, and the male deposits the sperm in it. After this process the female can put, up to fifteen thousand (15.000) eggs to be fertilized by the sperm in the breeding chamber that is at the bottom of her tail.
In other species, the female only disperses the eggs in the water, where they will develop on their own.
In this video you can watch the mating process of these Shrimps.
The offspring (floating larvae when just born ) leave from the eggs , and they go through a series of changes as they grow. Before developing an adult body, the larvae will moult it’s skin several times. This process can last between one and four months, then they will have already developed as adults, and will be sexually mature to reproduce.
The Pistol Shrimps and the Human Beings
Shrimps are a paramount piece of the food chain in their natural habitats, since they feed on a wide diversity of microorganisms and remains of former marine life at the bottom of the sea. But shrimps are also the source of food for many other animals that are pleased to have them in their menus .
Just as these animals are pleased with the presence of shrimps in their food, humans are also commonly delighted about having shrimps in their basic diet. And this is not only due to the pleasant taste of their meat, but also to the benefits that these animals bring to the health of people with every one of their properties.
We have to start mentioning the big amount of jobs generated by shrimps fishing , which are present in all the waters of the world, they are known and valued worldwide, this is why it is necessary to keep them in all markets, and this generates employment for many fishermen who work in fishing boats, and also for independent fishermen.
When people carry out this fishing, they are not looking for an specific kind of shrimps; in fact a wide variety of species are caught in the fishing nets, including the Pistol Shrimps.
Packaging of Shrimps for Export
In addition to the employment generated by fishing shrimps in the sea, they are also grown on land, so this is also a source of employment for people working in these places, who are responsible of taking care of these creatures, in order to guarantee their proper and healthy lives as well as their reproduction. Then we also have the packaging and distribution processes, which represent a hard work that has to be done, in order to distribute this delicious food to different places.
But aquaculture has many detractors, because they consider that shrimps do not live in freedom, but rather crowded together and prepared for certain death, because they are cultivated for this sole purpose. And also because these hatcheries are regularly located in the most oppressed sectors of developing countries, causing people exploitation, who perform long hours of work, for a very low salary.
Benefits of Shrimps
Shrimps have a large number of properties that make of these crustacean a must have in people’s diet, since they bring a variety of benefits for health, that few other foods possess.
One of the best-known components of this food, is vitamin B12, which is one of the responsible for the proper functioning of the body. And when people are sick, vitamin B12 is quite useful for restoring health . For this reason, many people prefer to eat a good recipe of shrimps when they feel sick.
This is also an excellent food that should be included in the diet of pregnant women because it gives them a high content of folic acid that is necessary for the development of the fetus when he begins to grow in his initial stage.
But this food not only favors the pregnant women, but also men who want to have family, because shrimp is not only an effective aphrodisiac for humans, but also stimulates the production of healthy and competitive sperm.
The reduction of chances of suffering coronary or cardiovascular disease, is another benefit of including shrimps in our diet. In the same way, shrimps are an indispensable element for people who have any type of nervous imbalance.
Although there is a huge controversy regarding the level of cholesterol that shrimps may have, it has been scientifically proven that an egg has much more cholesterol than a quarter of a kilogram of boiled shrimp.
This is the reason why they represent an ideal food for people who want to lose weight, not only because they
contain few calories, but because they are rich in proteins, and this is an excellent combination to burn fat and provide the energy that is required when exercising
Another benefit of this food is that it keeps the skin hydrated, which prevents the formation of wrinkles. Since shrimps also contain vitamin E they provide the skin with the elasticity it needs, and in addition, it prevents atherosclerosis, because it prevents the arteries from becoming clogged.
Eating shrimp is very beneficial, because it prevents the formation of blood clots, and thanks to the presence of selenium among its properties, not only protects the immune system, but also the cardiovascular system. For this reason, shrimp should not be missing from the basic diet of people who are already elderly.
How to prepare Shrimps
In the same way that there are so many species of shrimps, there are also different ways to prepare this delicious food, which for some people is a delicacy. Although there have been some controversies about the shrimp shell, whether it is swallowed or not, it depends on the taste of the people.
There are people who like to eat raw shrimps, and nothing happens; and there are other people who prefer to wait until shrimps go through water and salt.