How dangerous are the strikes of common mantis shrimps to humans? (Dr. R. Caldwell)
I handle stomatopods every day in our lab and when I'm in the field it is not uncommon to measure and sex 150 animals in an evening. Needless to say, I'm struck fairly often. Some species are far worse than others, but it usually hurts. Even a 2 cm Gonodactylus can draw blood and a 4 cm animal can drive the dactyl tips to the bone. Aside from a two inch slice in my hand made by a large lysiosquillid (by the uropod spine, not the dactyl), the most severe injury I have incurred was from a 7 cm Gonodactylus chiragra that drove its dactyl into the joint of my index finger and the tip broke off. It took some minor surgery to remove it. But that is nothing compared to what happen to a diver from South Africa who wrote me a few years ago describing his attempt to grab by hand an 18 cm Odontodactylus. The animal severely injured his finger which became infected by a chiton-digesting bacteria. The infection did not respond to the usual antibiotics. In the end, they amputated the finger. Be careful out there!
- Dr. Roy Caldwell