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Snapping Shrimp

Did you know that perhaps the loudest sound in shallow waters is made by animals the size of your pinky finger?

Snapping shrimp have claws (which makes them look a bit like baby lobsters), but one claw is much bigger than the other. They shut or ‘snap’ their big claw so quickly that it creates a vacuum bubble – the bubble bursts and produces a loud popping sound! (described by Versluis et al, 2000 in journal Science)

Next time you’re walking on a beach or a pier listen for their distinctive crackling sound!

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  1. Where should I look for snapping shrimp? If I can hear them, can I see them? Why do they make the bubble? Do they also use their claws to catch food? Are these shrimp different from the ones we eat?

  2. Look for them in any tropical/subtropical coastal area, they tend to like to hide under rocks and oyster shells, and some are associated with anemones. And when I say look, I mean listen too, because thats the first clue that they are there. When I was looking for snapping shrimp for my research, I used sound to hone in on which oyster shell clumps housed snapping shrimps. They are good at hiding though, so you have to be patient. If you stay still, they may poke out an antennae and reveal their location.

    Why do they make bubbles? The force of their claw closing is so forceful and fast, and the creation of the vacuum bubble makes it so that they can create a louder sound and physical impact, which they use in communication and defense.

    Yes, there is research that they use their snapping to stun prey. The little claw they seem to use a lot in handling their food.

    There are many different types of shrimp, for this particular group (Alpheidae) I do not know of anyone eating them.

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