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

The Secretary Bird

I, for one, am a little annoyed that dinosaurs don’t still walk the Earth.

I can stroll down the street without seeing a single Triceratops or Brachiosaurus, and while that makes me sad, it’s Velociraptor that I really miss. I wish there was a crazy, hip-high, feather-covered predator running around in our time, hunting in packs, literally kickboxing its prey to death left, right and centre, but alas, it’s not to-

Oh.
Oh.

That is the Secretary Bird, the feathery MMA champion of the African Savannah.

Standing at up to 1.3m tall (or over 4 feet) it’s immediately recognisable, with long legs like a crane or flamingo, and a head like an eagle. It even has the distinct colouration and black belt that hints at its true nature – it might strut around like a crane, but this is not a dainty fish-eater.

The Secretary Bird eats venomous snakes.

Unusually for a bird of prey, it spends most of the time on the ground, stomping around. This is where its crazily long legs come in useful – they are armoured with heavy scales and long enough to keep the bird’s body out of reach of most of its prey.

The heavy stomping will disturb any hiding creatures, and the bird’s keen eyes will direct its boot straight to them. The Secretary Bird then reenacts its favourite bits of American History X and Fight Club, kicking the prey to death with repeated strikes that land with up to four times the force of the bird’s weight.

That’s like a boxer landing punches at more than a ton of force each, and then eating you afterwards. Or being hunted by predatory telephone poles.

Rule 1. of "Being Eaten By A Big Bird Club" is "Don't talk about Being Eaten By A Big Bird Club."
Rule 1. of “Being Eaten By A Big Bird Club” is “Don’t talk about Being Eaten By A Big Bird Club.”

All that isn’t to say that the Secretary Bird can’t fly. Oh no. Like all kung fu movie villains, the Secretary Bird has no problem following you into the air.

Pictured: the most literal "flying kick" ever.
Pictured: the most literal “flying kick” ever.

The Secretary Bird even takes its “if velociraptors could fly” gimmick to incredible new levels with its truly sinister alternative hunting techniques.

The bird usually hunts in pairs, but can actually form loose “flocks” which move through the undergrowth together, flushing out prey for one another like the kitchen scene in Jurassic Park. These flocks are particularly fond of waiting by the edge of wildfires, where they ambush the panicked creatures fleeing the blaze. The prey are then KO’d and swallowed whole, or lifted into the air and dropped to their deaths.

Pictured: A breeding pair of secretary birds hunting for mice, National Geographic
Pictured: A breeding pair of secretary birds hunting for mice, National Geographic Magazine

There are even reports of Secretary Birds attacking young gazelles and cheetah cubs, although these are rare – when you’re as good at your job as the secretary bird, you don’t need to look elsewhere for food.

Despite initially taking well to their loss of habitat, and stalking farmland as if it was savannah, the Secretary Bird is now facing a range of new challenges, and is listed as “Vulnerable” by the IUCN.

Deforestation of the acacia trees in which it roosts are one main cause of problems, denying the birds their secure nests, but pesticide use, alongside general brush encroachment and desertification of their ranges, have all contributed to a plummet in numbers in recent years.

With the recent announcements concerning Environmental Policy, especially in the US and UK, these threats are not likely to go away, so it’s up to us. The Secretary Bird can’t flying-kick its way out of habitat loss: to protect its ranges and make sure these incredible birds stay on this Earth, we have to do the flying kicks for it.

Not literally, unless you have to.

That rubber snake is climate change, and you are the secretary bird. Give 'em hell.
That rubber snake is climate change, and you are the secretary bird. Give ’em hell.

Dan