Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Motherly Mantis Shrimp

Gaze Upon the Mother Shrimp That Punches Its Enemies to Death

Wired Laura Mallonee 7.18.17

 
Filippo Borghi (click to enlarge - this image is huge)

Peacock mantis shrimp are feisty little creatures best known for hammer-like appendages that help them dismember their enemies punch by punch. But after spawning, the mantis shrimp utilize their mitts for a more peaceful purpose: hauling a giant sack of eggs everywhere they go.

The anti-social creatures spend much of their hiding under rocks, so it isn't easy to spot one in the wild. But that didn’t stop Italian photographer Filippo Borghi from nabbing this fantastic portrait while diving in Indonesia. The 5-inch crustacean protectively clutches a monstrous ball of eggs, its bulging alien eyes defiantly staring down the camera.

“I don’t know why this one wasn’t shy," he says. "Maybe it was curious about the light of my strobe, or maybe it liked seeing itself in the mirror in my lens."

Peacock mantis shrimp get their name from the brilliant shades of red, green and blue speckling their exoskeletons. They dine on mollusks, small fish and other bottom-dwellers in the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. These unusually intelligent arthropods live up to six years and mate for life. The male injects his sperm into the female, and she releases it with a clutch of eggs held together by a special glue, which she carries around on her thorax for an average of 40 days before they hatch.

Sometimes, she even unloads a second clutch of eggs off on the dad.

Borghi snapped a photo of this particular mantis shrimp in 2013 while scuba diving in Lembeh Strait, 13-mile-long waterway dividing the islands of Sulawesi and Lembeh in Indonesia. The murky, shallow water is the perfect habitat for small animals like shrimp, seahorses, and crabs. “It looks like a black sand desert—at first, you think there’s nothing there,” he says. “But after you look more, you see it’s full of little creatures.”

He was exploring the strait with a guide when he noticed the brilliantly colored mantis shrimp cleaning and aerating its clutch on some rocks. The animal immediately scuttled out of sight with its progeny, but in a few minutes, it re-emerged. Borghi lay in the sand, trying his best not to stir up bubbles as he slowly elbowed up to it. He photographed the creature from just 6 inches away, using a Nikon D800 in under water casing, 105mm and a strobe for illumination.

Borghi's image lets you encounter the mom-to-be up close in colorful, mesmerizing detail. Just watch out for the claws.

The image won the aquatic life category in the 2017 Big Picture Competition

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