Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp

Shrimp and fish amongst rocks.
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 makes a sound so loud that during World War II, submarines used it as a screen to hide. How the shrimp makes this sound may surprise you. 

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Snapping Shrimp Create a Loud Sound Using a Bubble

Close up of a snapping shrimp.
Rodger Klein/WaterFrame/Getty Images

Snapping shrimp are small arthropods only 1 to 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. 

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 causing a reaction called cavitation. When the bubble explodes, the sound is produced. This process is also accompanied by intense heat; the temperature inside the bubble is at least 18,000 F. 

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Some Snapping Shrimp Have An Unusual Relationship with Goby Fish

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 Mate for Life

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

Snapping shrimp mate with a single partner during the breeding season. The 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 relationship 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.

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Some Snapping Shrimp Live in Colonies Like Ants

Close up of Snapping Shrimp in sea sponge.
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. "Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, Kennedy, Jennifer. (2020, August 26). Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp. Retrieved from Kennedy, Jennifer. "Fun Facts About Snapping Shrimp." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 10, 2023).