The Fastest Punch in the World: Meet the Praying Mantis Shrimp

Who punches hardest and fastest in the world? The Mantis Shrimp is who and the key to its phenomenal punch is all down to the storage and transfer of energy,  the physics of the shrimps physiology making the punch possible.

Though called the mantis shrimp, this creature is neither mantis nor shrimp but instead a relative  of lobsters, and a member of the Stomatopoda order, marine crustaceans.

This incredible sea creature packs some extraordinary power behind it’s relatively huge fists and can crack open shells at the speed of a 22-caliber bullet, making it a viscous and deadly predator and an unwanted enemy. But the  power behind the punch isn’t simply a feat of strength, it’s the storage and release of phenomenal amounts of energy.

The mechanism behind the  fastest punch in the world is all down to a saddle shaped spring located in the shrimps arms. When the arms cock and prepare to punch, muscles pull back the foreleg and flexor muscles hold it in place. The large muscles in the  upper arm contract and the resulting tensile energy is stored in the saddle, keeping the leg in that position.

A Punch More Powerful than Gravity

The punch is delivered when the flexor muscles release the appendage, simultaneously releasing the saddle spring mechanism. This shoots the leg forward and delivers a blow with 10,000 times the force of gravity and a speed of between 12-23 meters per second underwater!  They have been known to crack aquarium glass with this punch and that is strong stuff.

But the excitement doesn’t stop there, the punch is just the beginning of the deadly attack. Because the appendages are moving so fast and underwater, a process known a cavitation occurs. This is when the water surrounding the limb heats up so fast it vaporizes, creating cavitation bubbles from the vapour. When these collapse an implosion occurs and basically attacks the prey all over again, along with a flash of heat light and sound caused by the energy released.

Basically, nothing with a shell or other types  of armor can escape the clutches of this punch and the whole thing happens in less than 800 micro-seconds!!