KA-POW! This bot mimics the punch of the mantis shrimp

Researchers at Harvard University developed a robot to better understand one of nature’s deadliest strikes
mantis shrimp "A robot? Designed after me? I'm so honoured!" (ID 50939790 © Whitcomberd | Dreamstime.com)


The mantis shrimp is one tiny animal that packs a huge punch—literally! With its tiny claws, the marine crustacean can generate a punch that accelerates faster than a bullet fired from a gun. This little creature can produce a force greater than 100 times its own bodyweight, making it the strongest self-powered strike by an animal on earth. That’s amazing!

How does the small-but-mighty mantis shrimp create such powerful, ultra-fast movements? The question has long fascinated biologists and engineers. What is going on in its body?

Get to the punchline

Embed from Getty Images

Despite the name, the mantis shrimp is not a shrimp, or related to a mantis! It’s actually related to the lobster. (Getty Embed)

To solve this mystery, a team of researchers at Harvard University have copied the mechanics of the mantis shrimp’s punch and built a small robot to mimic the animal’s fascinating behaviour. Check out the ultra-slow-motion footage in this video from Mashable to see how it works.

To begin this project, the research team closely studied how the mantis shrimp’s body worked, and then built a small shrimp-sized robot to observe it in a lab.

Once they had their little robot, the team was all set to develop a complicated mathematical model of the movement to really break it down. They discovered that the mantis shrimp’s punch is kind of like a mouse trap, with the deadly claw springing out after it is unlatched by its muscles.

The natural world is full of remarkable behaviours. This research could help the field of robotics learn and mimic other extraordinary feats of nature. Harvard’s robot strikes with an acceleration equal to a car reaching 93 kph (58 mph) in just 4 milliseconds! But as impressive as that sounds, it’s still not as fast as the mantis shrimp!

We may be learning a lot from the great little crustacean, but clearly we still have a long way to go.


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