Peacock Mantis Shrimp, Odontodactylus scyllarus

Mantis Shrimps

These predatory crustaceans, sometimes referred to as ‘prawn killers’ have large raptorial claws similar to those of mantid insects; a number of species occur in Queensland waters.


Mantis shrimps are exclusively marine, predatory crustaceans (Order Stomatopoda) that originated in the Cretaceous, and have remained remarkably similar in appearance for 100 million years. There are more than 100 genera and 450 species worldwide, with about 70 genera and 150 species recorded from Australia.

Modern stomatopods are commonly known as mantis shrimps because of their large raptorial claws, similar in appearance to the claws of mantid insects. Another common name, 'prawn-killers', alludes to their frequent appearance in prawn trawler catches.

Stomatopods form two functional ecological groups known as 'spearers' and 'smashers'. 'Spearers' have the finger of the claw variously armed with a row of long forwardly-directed spines, which effectively penetrate and hold mobile prey species while they are killed. 'Smashers' generally lack such spines on the finger, which is kept closed during the strike. Instead, the swollen basal part of the finger is struck suddenly and forcefully against the shells of prey species to kill or stun the victim into immobility.

Examples of common mantis shrimps include:

  • Orange-spot Smashing Mantis Shrimp (Gonodactylaceus graphurus)
  • Peacock Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus)
  • Yellow-spot Smashing Mantis Shrimp (Gonodactylaceus falcatus)

Common questions

Yes, indeed! They have the most complex eyes of any creature in the animal kingdom. Their eyes contain up to 16 different photoreceptors (humans have three) and can detect ultraviolet and polarised light. Additionally, they can focus on an object with different parts of the same eye, thereby giving them depth perception using only one eye.

There are two different groups of mantis shrimps – smashers and spearers. Smashers possess club-like raptorial claws with which they smash hard-shelled prey such as crabs and marine snails. In contrast, spearers use their knife-like raptorial claws to stab soft-bodied prey such as fish.

Mantis shrimps have very powerful raptorial claws that they use to either ‘smash’ or ‘spear’ their prey. Anyone who handles these crustaceans should be careful as they can inflict a painful wound to their fingers or thumbs.

Fact sheets


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