5 Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp

01
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Snapping Shrimp Are Also Known As Pistol Shrimp

Yellow Shrimp Goby (Cryptocentrus Cinctus) Living With A Blind Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus Sp.), Bali, Indonesia
Yellow Shrimp Goby (Cryptocentrus Cinctus) Living With A Blind Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus Sp.), Bali, Indonesia. Dave Fleetham/Design Pics/Perspectives/Getty Images

The little shrimp shown here is a snapping shrimp, which is also known as the pistol shrimp. This shrimp is known for its built-in 'stun gun', created by its snapping claw. 

Snapping shrimp make a sound so loud that during World War II, submarines used it as a screen to hide themselves. How the shrimp makes this sound may surprise you. 

In this brief slide show, you can learn facts about snapping shrimp - how and why they make their distinctive sound, why some have a relationship with goby fish, and how some shrimp live in colonies like ants. 

02
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Snapping Shrimp Create a Loud Sound, Using a Bubble.

Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus sp.), Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi
Snapping Shrimp (Alpheus sp.), Lembeh Strait, Sulawesi. Rodger Klein/WaterFrame/Getty Images

 

Snapping shrimp are small arthropods only 1-2 inches in size. There are hundreds of species of snapping shrimp.

As you can see by the shrimp in this image, the snapping shrimp has one larger claw that's shaped like a boxing glove. When the pincer is closed, it fits into a socket in the other pincer. This is important to the sound the shrimp makes. 

Scientists thought for a long time that the sound was made simply by the shrimp snapping its pincers together. But in 2000, a team of scientists led by Detlef Lohse found that the snap creates a bubble. This bubble is created when the pincer lands in the socket and the water bubbles out. When the bubble explodes, the sound is produced.  At the same time, there is a flash of light. This process is also accompanied by intense heat - the temperature inside the bubble is at least 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit. 

03
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Some Snapping Shrimp Have An Unusual Relationship with Goby Fish

Snapping Shrimp with Yellownose Prawn Goby
Snapping Shrimp with Yellownose Prawn Goby. Franco Banfi/WaterFrame/Getty Images

In addition to their snapping sound, snapping shrimp are also known for their unusual relationship with goby fish.  These relationships form for the mutual benefit of the fish and the shrimp. The shrimp digs a burrow in the sand, which protects it and the goby with which it shares its burrow.  The shrimp is nearly blind, so it is threatened by predators if it leaves its burrow.  It solves this problem by touching the goby with one of its antennae when it leaves the burrow. The goby keeps watch for danger. If it sees any, it moves, which triggers the shrimp to retreat back into the burrow. 

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Most Snapping Shrimp Are Monogamous

Pair of brown snapping shrimps on white and blue crinoid, Bali, Indonesia
Pair of brown snapping shrimps on white and blue crinoid, Bali, Indonesia. Mathieu Meur/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

Snapping shrimp mate with a single partner during the breeding season.  Initiation of mating activity may start with snapping. The shrimp mate just after the female molts. When the female molts, the male protects her, so it makes sense that this is a monogamous relationshp as females molt every few weeks and mating may occur more than once. The female incubates the eggs under her abdomen. The larvae hatch as planktonic larvae, which molt several times before settling on the bottom to begin life in their shrimp form. 

Snapping shrimp have a relatively short lifespan of only a few years.

05
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Some Snapping Shrimp Live in Colonies Like Ants

Female commensal Snapping Shrimp, Synalpheus neomeris, with eggs on soft coral, Dedronephthya heterocyatha, Darwin, NT, Australia
Female commensal Snapping Shrimp, Synalpheus neomeris, with eggs on soft coral, Dedronephthya heterocyatha, Darwin, NT, Australia. Karen Gowlett-Holmes/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Some snapping shrimp species form colonies of hundreds of individuals and live within host sponges. Within these colonies, there appears to be one female, known as the "queen." 

 

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Kennedy, Jennifer. "5 Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp." ThoughtCo, Feb. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/facts-about-snapping-shrimp-3957608. Kennedy, Jennifer. (2016, February 29). 5 Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-snapping-shrimp-3957608 Kennedy, Jennifer. "5 Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-snapping-shrimp-3957608 (accessed January 21, 2018).