While the name suggests otherwise, the mantis shrimp is crustacean, but not a shrimp. Instead, it retains characteristics of both an aquatic shrimp and a terrestrial "mantis."
The creature has a segmented abdomen, antennae, carapace, swimmerets and claw-like appendages that resemble those of a praying mantis. These powerful extensions work like jackknives and give the species the ability to overpower its prey.
The common mantis shrimp usually inhabits the middle- to high-salinity waters of the lower Bay, and grows to a length of 8 to 10 inches. Often referred to as the “shrimp snapper” by watermen of the Chesapeake, the creature is respected for its swift slashing motion that can slice a shrimp or fish in two, and cut a human’s hand.
The mantis shrimp is also edible and has a reputation for being very tasty.
In the Bay, the mantis shrimp digs burrows with several openings in the soft muddy substrate, and is a nocturnal hunter, making it more difficult to spot. Occasionally one can find molted shells washed up on the beach. They are as likely to frequent intertidal shallows as well as deep waters up to 500 feet. The animal hunts greedily for live prey, including crabs, fishes, shrimp and other mantis shrimp.
Because they remain in their burrows by day and are considered "shy" creatures–despite their reputation for behaving aggressively–little is known about the life cycle or mating habits of the illusive mantis shrimp.
Illustration courtesy of