From all the Critters to be seen in Lembeh Strait, the Mantis Shrimp is definitely one that the untrained Critter Spotter can easily find on its own. At least many of them … there is not only one kind of Mantis Shrimp. First of all, the Family of the Mantis Shrimp consists of predators only and is devided into two groups: The Smashers and the Spearers. Mantis Shrimp have – just like Preying Mantis on land – long “striking arms” to catch their food. These claws are inward folding and can be shot out with lightning speed. Spearers have them equipped with several long thorns to “spear” small fishes, the Smashers have little “Clubs” to break the armor of their prey which generally consists of shells. While Spearers mainly stay in their wholes is the sand and hunt from its opening, Smashers will also leave their burrow and hunt out in the open. Mantis Shrimp have also an excellent eye sight and due to the position and design of their eyes also a “allmost all around” view.
There are several species of Smashing Mantis Shrimp to be found in Lembeh Strait. The two most attractive and well known types are the Peacok Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) and the Pink Eared Mantis Shrimp (Odontodactylus latirostris). The Peacok Mantis grows to almost 20cm in size while its Pink Eared cousin only reaches about half the size. They both build little burrows in the sand in which they retreat. Generally speaking smashing Mantis are way more attractive to watch than the spearing ones – they are very busy, always improving their burrows, curious at times and make great photo subjects.
Mantis Shrimp on various types can be found on virtually every dive site in Lembeh Strait. They are mostly reasonably sized and best shot with a 60mm lens on APS-C or a 100mm lens on full frame. Watch out for special behaviour like improvement of the burrow or feeding. Please keep also in mind, that mantis with eggs would never leave their burrow without being forced. So if your dive guide shows you mantis with eggs out in the open: Don’t take a shot. You are actually risking the mantis dropping its eggs. A skilled diveguide will tickle the mantis to the opening of its hole where you can shoot it looking out of its burrow. Maybe not as striking but much better for the animal 😉