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Kingdom: Animalia
Sub Kingdom: Eumetazoa
Super Phylum: Protostomia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Sub Phylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Sub Class: Hoplocarida
Order: Stomatopoda
Sub Order: Unipeltata


Order Stomatopoda includes the mantis shrimp, so named for their similarity in appearance to the insects preying mantis (to which they are only very remotely related). Interestingly, the mode of prey capture in many mantis shrimp is very similar to that of preying mantis. While they are known as mantis shrimp, they are not actually shrimp. True shrimp are members of a different subclass (Eumalacostraca).

A distinctive characteristic of mantis shrimp is their large claws (second maxillipeds) used for prey capture. There are two different types of claws and these determine whether the mantis shrimp is a "spearer" or a "smasher". The claws of spearers have a series of long (and sharp) teeth which curve backwards and these are used for impaling soft bodied prey such as fish and shrimp (Ahyong, 2004). The claws of smashers usually only have one tooth which is greatly enlarged at the heel and this is used as a hammer on hard bodied prey like crabs and snails (Ahyong, 2004).

Mantis shrimp have the fastest strike of any known creature - a whopping 23 meters per second, with peak accelerations ranging from 6,300 to 8,000 times that of gravity. See this article here and this article on how they do it.

Large mantis shrimp (smashers >9cm) can break glass, so you have to be careful.

Laurent Ballesta's award winning image of a spearer mantis

Mantis shrimp are regarded by many hobbyists as pests, but with the exception of a few species, mainly the spearers, many can live for many years in a aquarium with other organisms and cause no noticeable damage, other than taking a few snails from time to time. Large spearers can be quite beautiful and make great subjects for a dedicated tank.

A picture from another website showing a peacock mantis shrimp