The truth about the mantis shrimp's punch

Who's got the fastest punch in the world? Is it Floyd Mayweather Jr.? Amir Khan? The Guinness Book of World Records seems to think it's Keith Liddell, whose fists were clocked at 45 miles per hour. But those are all wrong, because the world's fastest punch does not belong to a human being, it belongs to a shrimp.

Granted, as shrimps go the peacock mantis shrimp is not the smallest. According to the National Aquarium, it typically grows to be between two inches and seven inches long, so, you know, somewhere between a salad shrimp and a jumbo shrimp. Fun fact: People do actually eat mantis shrimp — they're a favorite sushi topping and are sometimes boiled whole. In Italy they're called Canocchie.

Mantis shrimp might be delicious but they are also fascinating. They are brightly colored (hence the "peacock" moniker) and they are also extremely territorial. They don't defend themselves with venom or with teeth, either, they defend themselves with a pair of fists. Sort of.

The mantis shrimp's "guns"

The fists of a mantis shrimp are actually a pair of club-like front legs, called "dactyls." When a peacock shrimp is threatened, its dactyls can strike with a speed of roughly 75 feet per second, which is 50 times faster than you can blink your eyes and about as fast as a .22 caliber bullet. According to National Geographic, the shrimp "cocks" its arm and then releases it, so that the action is something like a spring. And because an animal that can strike with the force of a bullet isn't already impressive enough, the speed of the mantis shrimp's dactyls is so incredible that actually lowers the water pressure in front of it, causing it to boil. Yes, boil. How ironic is that, for an animal that typically gets, you know, boiled?

The mantis shrimp uses this superpower not just to defend itself but to prey on hard-shelled animals like crabs. They can easily take down much larger species, too, like fish and octopuses. So can they hurt humans, too? Yes. The Washington Post says at least one unfortunate person had to have a finger amputated because of a mantis shrimp punch. So its a safe bet that you if you encounter one out there in the sea, you should give it a wide berth, just in case it decides to go all Floyd Mayweather Jr. on you.