Strange Animals (pg 5)
Bobbit Worm – (also known as Sand strikers or Eunice aphroditois) are primitive-looking creatures that lack eyes, or even a brain. This Terrifying Worm Snatches Fish from the Ocean Floor. It hunts in pretty much the most nightmarish way imaginable, digging itself into the sea floor, exposing a few inches of its body — which can grow to 10 feet long — and waiting. They are savage predators who shoot out grapple-like hooks to reel in passing fish. Using five antennae, the bobbit worm senses passing prey, snapping down on them with supremely muscled mouth parts, called a pharynx. It does this with such speed and strength that it can split a fish in two. And that, quite frankly, would be a merciful exit. If you survive initially, you get to find out what it’s like to be yanked into the worm’s burrow and into untold nightmares. “What happens next is rather unknown, especially because they have not been observed directly,” per ecologists Luis F. Carrera-Parra and Sergio I. Salazar-Vallejo. “We think that the bobbit worm injects some narcotizing or killing toxin into their prey animal, so that it can be safely ingested — especially if they are larger than the worm — and then digested through the gut.” Every once in a while a bobbit worm just appears in an aquarium, like a kraken, ready to make a mess of things.
When folks introduce live rocks — which are actually skeletons of dead coral — into their saltwater aquariums, a teeny-tiny bobbit worm can come along for the ride. But they don’t stay small for long. Bobbit worms can tuck themselves away among coral and decimate an aquarium, picking off fish one by one, which can be very confusing to the aquarium owner since fish typically don’t just disappear.
Mantis Shrimp – Mantis shrimp are split into two groups. Smashers methodically dismember and knock their prey unconscious. Spearers impale fish with spikey appendages, much like their insect namesake. The speed and power with which these creatures strike simply defies logic. While the spearers can lash at their prey in a mere 20 to 30 milliseconds, the smashers can be 10 times as quick. This is the fastest predatory strike on the planet. ow can so small creature release such energy? “They basically have a spring that they can load using a very forceful but slowly contracting muscle,” said biologist Sheila Patek of Duke University, “and then a latch that releases that energy when they’re ready. And it releases the energy over a really short time period, which means that that appendage comes flying out at really high speeds and acceleration.”
With such muscles, the mantis shrimp can launch its clubs at 75 feet per second – through the resistance of water, no less. Such speed generates an area of low pressure that forms vapor bubbles in a process called cavitation. When these collapse, they release tremendous energy in the form of, oddly enough, light and heat, an incredible 8,500 degrees Fahrenheit. (Although no one has ever measured the temperature of a mantis shrimp strike, according to Patek other measurements of cavitation’s heat release can be reliably applied to the punch.)
This searing heat is too fleeting to fry the prey, but that’s no consolation to the poor critter. The shock wave from the implosion of bubbles follows the punch and slams into the stomatopod’s target, often knocking it out cold. Keep in mind that this is happening with a pair of clubs, bringing the total impacts in each strike to four. In this manner the mantis shrimp can smash through even the most mightily armored clams and snails. As for crabs, it’ll cleverly blast off their claws first, then amputate the remaining limbs to immobilize it – if it isn’t already unconscious, which would be a pretty merciful exit, all things considered. When hunting crabs, the mantis shrimp will cleverly blast off its claws first, then amputate the remaining limbs to immobilize it.