How Snapping Shrimp Snap

A specimen of the recently identified Pink Floyd shrimp, a resident of the west coast of Panama.

SNAPPING SHRIMP SNAP THEIR CLAWS with speeds so fast they create shockwaves in the water (cavitation bubbles, in scientific parley) that implode with immense energy, resulting in those cracking sounds.

How the little guys do it wasn’t clear. Now a team of scientists has used micro-computed tomography, high-speed video and 3-D printed scale models to figure it out.


Analyzing the claw dynamics of 114 species of shrimps, they found two previously unrecognized claw joint types that make it possible – a “slip joint” and a cocking slip joint mechanism that allows the shrimp to build up extreme tension in the claw before releasing it with phenomenal force. They published their findings in December in the online journal Current Biology.

Science writer Michael Price described the work in an online report for Science Magazine, accompanied by a terrific video showing how the little shrimps do it.