Creature Feature – Stephenson’s Mantis Shrimp

Andrew Hosie's blog | Created 5 years ago

Stephenson’s Mantis Shrimp, Harpiosquilla stephensoni Manning, 1969

Last week this 20 cm long monster was brought into the Museum by a curious member of the public who had managed to collect it while fishing in the Gulf of Carpentaria. With lightning-quick reflexes, frighteningly long, sharp spines and incredible vision this is an animal not to be handled with bare hands!

While not as large as the Zebra Mantis Shrimp from a previous post Stephenson’s Mantis Shrimp is still the stuff of nightmares, at least if you’re a small fish or shrimp. This animal ambushes prey unlucky enough to pass too close to its burrow, with an explosive snatch and grab with its large raptorial claws. Stephenson’s Mantis Shrimp has broad “T” shaped eyes effectively giving it quad-ocular vision for the perfect depth perception needed to catch prey as it swims by and once a fish is caught in the spiny claws there’s no escape.

This particular species is endemic to Australian waters and is not found anywhere else in the world. It is definitely a tropical species found in shallow waters from Derby in the Kimberley across the Northern Territory and into Queensland.

Thanks to Dr Shane Ahyong of the Australian Museum, Sydney for the identification.

A specimen of Stephenson’s Mantis Shrimp

Stephenson’s Mantis Shrimp. Note the surprisingly feeble-looking walking legs compared to the massive claws

Close up of the bilobed eyes that give this creature such excellent vision

Close up of the bilobed eyes that give this creature such excellent vision

Close up of the deadly claws

Close up of the deadly claws