Basic Things about Pistol Shrimp

Pistol Shrimps belong to the family Alpheidae. They are blind. They mostly inhabit oyster reefs, coral reefs, seagrass flats, etc. They are found in both freshwater and seawater bodies. Pistol Shrimps are named so because the sound they produce with their claws is louder than a gunshot.

Relate these two things together: (a) it is one of the smallest creatures on the planet and (b) it is also one of the loudest to live on planet Earth!

Though the two facts don’t seem to relate properly, it is actually the magic of Mother Nature who has given us countless reasons to stay amazed every single day.

We are speaking of the incredible Pistol Shrimp that lurks in the ocean waters and displays one of the weirdest physical appearances and equally weird hunting techniques. Let us today travel the depths of oceans to learn 20 incredibly interesting Pistol Shrimp facts.

We guarantee – you will love it and if you don’t then, you simply don’t! Ha Ha!

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Arthropoda

Subphylum: Crustacea

Class: Malacostraca

Order: Decapoda

Superfamily: Alpheoida

Family: Alpheidae

Pistol Shrimp Facts
By OpenCage – Own work:, CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

Interesting Pistol Shrimp Facts: 1-5

1. The Pistol Shrimp also goes by two more names – Snapping Shrimp or Alpheid Shrimp.

2. There are around 600 different species of these creatures live on Earth. These species are grouped in 38+ genera with Synalpheus and Alpheus being the two most popular genera. The Synalpheus genus has around 100 species and the Alpheus genus has over 250 species.

3. Snapping Shrimp or Pistol Shrimp are commonly found in oyster reefs, submerged seagrass flats, and coral reefs and are known for digging burrows.

4. Most of the genera of Pistol Shrimp are found in temperate and tropical marine and coastal waters. Potamalpheops is the only genus found in freshwater caves while Betaeus is found in cold seas.

5. Pistol Shrimps are very small in size and they grow no more than 3-5 cm in length but they are the major source of noise in the ocean.

Interesting Pistol Shrimp Facts: 6-10

6. When it comes to the title of the loudest sea/ocean creature, this minuscule creature enters in competition with a beluga whale and sperm whale.

7. When Pistol Shrimps are together in a colony, they can easily interfere with underwater communication and sonar.

8. The physical appearance of Pistol Shrimp is pretty weird. With a length of no more than 1-2 inches, this shrimp possesses a large claw which is remarkably disproportionate compared to its body. There is no specific arm on which the claw may appear. It can be found either on the left arm or the right arm.

9. This disproportionately large claw is devoid of typical pincers at the end as found in usual shrimps. Instead of the pincers, the claw has two parts – a feature akin to that of a pistol. One of the two parts is known as the ‘hammer’ which, using a joint, moves 90 degrees backward from the other part.

10. While hunting, Pistol Shrimp opens the hammer part and then releases it, allowing it to snap into the other part. This release is extraordinarily fast and results in an enormously powerful low-pressure cavitation bubble.

Interesting Pistol Shrimp Facts: 11-15

pistol shrimp facts
By GrahamBould – Own work, Public Domain, Link

11. The bubble that is created serves the purpose of stunning a prey. How does that work? The bubble shoots out at a speed of 62 miles an hour, reaching a temperature of 4700 degrees Celsius for a very brief period of time. This temperature is actually close to the temperature of the Sun.

12. Following the heat treatment, the prey is then served with a shock wave which is delivered when the bubble bursts (implodes) with a loud sound. And… voila! The prey is stunned and the Pistol Shrimp then feasts on it!

13. As the bubble reaches the temperature of 4700 degrees Celsius, the event is termed as sonoluminescence. A very intense flash of light is produced due to sonoluminescence for a very brief period of time. This flash of light lasts for 300 picoseconds to 10 nanoseconds, making the flash of light invisible to naked eyes. A picosecond is actually a trillionth of a second.

14. The entire line of events starting from snapping of claws to bursting of bubbles takes place within 300 microseconds and scientists studied the whole thing using a super-high-speed camera capable of capturing 40,000 frames per second.

15. The sound produced by the bursting bubble reaches 218 decibels which is louder than the sound produced by a gunshot!

Interesting Pistol Shrimp Facts: 16-20

16. The sonic blast produced by the Pistol Shrimp is capable of breaking glass and hence, it is risky to keep the shrimp in an aquarium.

17. Pistol Shrimps often found living in colonies of 300+. There is one queen in the colony, which will possibly have only a single mate. The colony will majorly consist of male members that serve as soldiers.

18. A Pistol Shrimp can lose its snapping claw over time. This is when the smaller claw of the other arm will grow into a snapping claw and the lost limb grows back into a smaller claw.

Pistol Shrimp Facts
Gobi and Pistol Shrimp | By Steve ChildsFlickr: Gobi and shrimp, CC BY 2.0, Link

19. Pistol Shrimps have been found to display symbiotic relationship with goby fish. Goby fish are known for their powerful eyesight as opposed to Pistol Shrimps’ poor eyesight. The relationship is that of building home and protecting from danger. The Pistol Shrimp will build and tend the burrow while the goby fish with its good eyesight will warn the shrimp of possible distant threats with a characteristic tail movement.

20. When both the goby fish and the Pistol Shrimp go out the burrow, the shrimp will stay behind the goby fish but maintain contact using its antennae. This symbiotic relationship has so far been noticed only in coral reef habitats of Pistol Shrimp.

Pistol Shrimp FAQ

Can a Pistol Shrimp Hurt a Human?

It can’t kill you by snapping its claw. But humans can die if they are either allergic (suffering from anaphylaxis shock) or if they choke on a shrimp.

How Loud is a Pistol Shrimp?

The sound that is produced by pistol shrimps claw measures 218 decibels. It is louder than a gunshot which measures 150 decibels.

How Long Do Pistol Shrimps Live?

In wild, they live for about 4 years and in captivity, they live for 2 to 3 years.

Can Pistol Shrimps Break Glass?

Yes, they are capable of breaking glass and hence it is risky to keep them in an aquarium.

Where Do Pistol Shrimps Live?

They live in coral reefs, oyster reefs, seagrass flats, etc.

Who Are the Predators of Pistol Shrimp?

The predators of pistol shrimp are groupers, lionfish, triggers, hawkfish, etc.

Are Pistol Shrimps and Mantis Shrimps Same?

No, they are not. Pistol shrimp is just 1 to 2 inches and mantis shrimp is 8 to 10 inches. They have a lot of other differences as well.

How Big is Pistol Shrimp?

They are around 4 to 5 centimeters or 1 to 2 inches.

How do Pistol Shrimps Reproduce?

The mating starts with snapping. The female molts first and they mate later. The female molts every few weeks and the male protects her. The eggs are incubated under the female’s abdomen. The larvae also molt and then transform into shrimp. Shrimps are monogamous for a breeding season.

Sources: 1, 2, 3

Image Credits: 1, 2, 3

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