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How the Mantis Shrimp Can Revolutionize Body Armor

Mantis shrimp, which ironically is neither mantis nor shrimp, sure knows how to pack a punch. The bright orange fist-like club of the mantis-shrimp, which it uses to crack open clam shells, accelerates faster than a 22-caliber bullet underwater. But how does the Mantis shrimp club survive repeated high-velocity strikes without cracking?

[University of California, Riverside professor David Kisailus] found that the club is a highly complex structure, comprised of three specialized regions that work together to create a structure tougher than many engineered ceramics.

The first region, located at the impacting surface of the club, contains a high concentration of mineral, similar to that found in human bone, which supports the impact when the mantis shrimp strikes prey. Further inside, highly organized and rotated layers of chitin (a complex sugar) fibers dispersed in mineral act as a shock absorber, absorbing energy as stress waves pass through the club. Finally, the club is encapsulated on its sides by oriented chitin fibers, which wrap around the club, keeping it intact during these high velocity impacts.

“This club is stiff, yet it’s light-weight and tough, making it incredibly impact tolerant and interestingly, shock resistant,” Kisailus said. “That’s the holy grail for materials engineers.”

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Previously on Neatorama: Check out the pistol shrimp's shooting claw in 6 Seriously Strange Animal Adaptations 


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