Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pistol Shrimp

The common name Pistol Shrimp can refer to one of the 600 species belonging to the family Alpheidae. They are also sometimes referred to as Snapping Shrimp. Most species are found in tropical and temperate saltwater, though others are able to live in colder seas, and even in freshwater caves. They feed off of fish and other crustaceans and typically live within burrows.

Shrimp and Goby
They are an interesting little family of Crustaceans in that they share a handful of bizarre characteristics. The first is physical: all species have one "normal" sized claw, while the second claw is much, much larger. They use these claws for what is probably their most interesting trait; their title as one of the loudest creatures in existence. Even though they are small, growing not much larger than a few inches, Pistol Shrimp are able to produce 218 decibel sounds. This is louder than a gunshot, (typically around 190 decibels) and comparable to sounds made by the 50 ton Sperm Whale. They do so by snapping their large claws closed, which creates something called a cavitation bubble. When this bubble collapses, it not only produces an incredible loud pop, but it also, very briefly, creates extremely hot temperatures, up to 4700 degrees Celsius! (that's nearly 8,500 Fahrenheit) This bubble is able to stun prey, and on a human beings feels like getting snapped hard by a rubber band.

Pistol Shrimp also have an interesting relationship with Goby fish. The two creatures share a burrow and remain in physical contact at all times. The Shrimp have terrible eyesight, but the Goby's is exceptional. If the Goby spots danger, it twitches to warn the Shrimp, and both are able to move to safety. In return, the Shrimp maintains the den that they share. This relationship exists even with captive shrimp and fish.

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