University of Cambridge > > Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series > Neuroethology of a striking crustacean, the mantis shrimp

Neuroethology of a striking crustacean, the mantis shrimp

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Stomatopods, commonly known as mantis shrimp, are known for two things: their possession of the world’s most complex retina and their power-amplified, predatory strikes, which are the fastest known underwater animal movement. Though much is known about the performance of both the visual system and the mechanics of the strike, how the visual information is processed into the appropriate motor command for this ultrafast movement remains to be elucidated. Two hypotheses stand for how mantis shrimp control the charging and release of their predatory strikes. First, since the striking appendage is a power-amplified system like jumping insects such as locusts, the strike may follow a similar command neuron structure. The locust’s extremely fast escape kick is powered by stored energy in the hind femur that is then released by a stereotyped signal from a pair of descending interneurons in response to a looming visual stimuli. Alternatively, since mantis shrimp use their strikes not just for defence but also predation, visual control of the strike may derive from the summed activity of a neuronal population, or encoding system similar to what is seen in aerial insect predators, like dragonflies. These animals use a population of descending neurons to encode vector information from a moving target in order to track and pursue prey. Here I will present the results of extracellular electrophysiological experiments from the Mediterranean spot-tail mantis shrimp, Squilla mantis, in response to visual, mechanical, and electrical stimuli. These data provide support for both hypotheses, suggesting that mantis shrimp may use a hybrid of the two currently known strategies for controlling ultra-fast limb movement.

This talk is part of the Behaviour, Ecology & Evolution Seminar Series series.

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