The Pistol Shrimp

Imagine that you worked out, but only one of your arms. Imagine you pumped so much iron and drank down so many protein shakes that your one muscular arm grew almost as large as your whole body, and you could clap so loud that the people around you literally died.

You’ve just successfully imagined being the Pistol Shrimp.

Because when I say “shrimp” you say “giant sonic terror claw”.

The pistol shrimp’s arm has a goddamn cannon built into it. To go hunting, the shrimp picks a concealed spot, like a burrow, a bit of coral or a little underwater grassy knoll, and waits, antennae sensing the water for prey.

When something edible swims too close, the shrimp pulls the hammer on its claw back, “loading” it.

“Safety’s off, Sarge.”

That claw then snaps shut, creating a blast of sound. The water ahead of the shrimp briefly spikes to 5000°C, or the temperature of the fucking sun. There’s even a flash of light, caused by the sheer force of the collapsing vacuum in the water.

The prey is hammered by the shockwave, and stunned or killed. After that, the shrimp can drag them into its sniper nest and munch at its leisure.

Pictured: a regular shrimp meeting a pistol shrimp.

What’s more, they can’t be disarmed. If a pistol shrimp loses its cannon-arm, presumably to the oceanic equivalent of Jason Bourne, it will regenerate as a normal claw – while its other arm grows to monstrous size and becomes a cannon arm.

Try to take the gun away, and it just switches hands.

Pistol Shrimp are found all over the world, with members blasting their way across tropical waters, up into temperate coasts and in freshwater caves. However, these lunatic sniper shrimp are drifting further North than ever before – a pair were found by an English fisherman off the coast of the UK this year, and they are increasingly being fished up outside their usual ranges, hopefully by fishermen in bomb-proof blast suits.

The only explanation is that they are being pushed North by climate change, and while the shrimps themselves are fine with this, the fish and crustacean species already in their new shooting gallery aren’t – any invasive predator is bad news, and one with such an unstoppable hunting strategy is even worse.

What’s more, some of them are even eusocial, like bees, wasps and ants. The Synalpheus genus, which lives in sea sponges, forms colonies of a single “Queen” female, hundreds of workers, and hundreds of soldiers, all armed with the pistol shrimp’s shockwave cannon.

You know what happens next.

Little underwater trenches and little underwater artillery emplacements.

BLAM.
BLAM.

Be right back, I just had a great idea for a SyFy Original script.

Dan

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The Tailless Whip Scorpion

It’s been over a month, you think, he hasn’t posted anything new. It’s probably safe to go back on the internet without having some unspeakable, skin-crawling abomination of nature appear on your computer screen.

WRONG
WRONG!

This is the tailless whip scorpion or “whip spider”. It is, unsurprisingly, a relative of spiders, scorpions and other arachnids, and, if you look closely, you will see that it is somehow worse than all of them. Combining the flat, armoured body of a scorpion with spider-like body structure, the spiked forelimbs of a praying mantis with the gangly, unsettling legs of a harvestman and tacking on the long, spindly antennae of whatever that bug is that’s on your back right now, this Frankenstein super-arachnid lives in tropical and subtropical climates worldwide.

They can be found in leaf-litter, under rocks and other debris, in tunnels under the soil and even in deep cave systems, where no creature ever sees the sun.

"The sun is terrible for my skin anyway."
“The sun is terrible for my skin anyway.”

They are exclusively nocturnal, so if they ever have to leave their secluded, shadowy haunts, they do it in the dark. Their first pair of limbs have evolved into the eye-removing, prey-impaling nightmare claws seen above, but the second pair have changed into extremely long, antennae-like sensory “whips”. The creature extends these whips on either side of its body, walking sideways to achieve maximum creepiness and allow it to sense the environment both ahead and behind.

When prey is located, the whip spider lunges forwards, impaling it on the spiked forelimbs of doom and pulling it in to be torn open by strong, spider-like jaws. The body fluids and soft tissues of the victim can then be eaten, and the whip spider can continue its steady sideways amble into the nightmares of everyone, everywhere.

The whip spider is also, amazingly, venomless, and harmless to humans. It lacks the venom glands, poison injectors, acid sprays, web spinners and spine launchers which I fully expected to find on such a creature.

If threatened, its primary response is to run like hell, using its flattened body to vanish into cracks in rock and other small crevasses. If cornered, those barbed arms come into play, but against a large, determined predator they can only really do so much.

tailless
And if any creature is desperate enough to eat a tailless whip scorpion, let’s assume it is not going to be easily dissuaded.

So you see, they are actually absolutely harmless and benevolent. Nothing to worry about. They even fit adorably in your hand!

The donor of this hand tragically died in a non-horror-arachnid related mauling after this picture was taken.
The donor of this hand tragically died in a non-horror-arachnid related mauling after this picture was taken.

Ignore the fact that they have been seen snatching moths out of the air, or the way South American populations have been recorded pulling shrimp out of freshwater streams to tear apart and eat them. Nothing worrying there. But try telling Ron Weasley that. That guy’s scared of the cuddliest things.

What a bitch, am I right?
What a bitch, am I right?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading about the whip spider, a perfectly non-threatening arthropod that is not currently coercing me into writing reassuring things about it on the internet!

Dan

(image credit for image 1 – colinhuttonphoto.deviantart.com, image 2 – naturecloseups.com, image 3 – http://www.britannica.com, image 4 – forums.wowpetopia.com, image 5 – http://www.tumblr.com