Male Shrimp Woos and Scares With Rap

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(Mantis shrimp; Credit: Science)

Shrimp, most often seen in cocktail glasses with a side of sauce, aren't exactly known for their musical talents. But a study in the journal Aquatic Biology found that, at least for mantis shrimp, each has its own unique voice, with males teaming up in groups of three either to attract females or frighten off enemies.

Like rappers, these male shrimp vocal groups produce synchronized rhythmic pieces that grab the attention of others.

Marine biologist Erica Staaterman of the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and colleagues heard the shrimp after collecting data using various instruments. These included hydrophones and an autonomous recording unit placed in the muddy waters off the coast of Catalina Island, California.

"Rarely are there studies of benthic acoustics (sounds from the ocean floor)," said Staaterman in a press release. "There has always been suspicion that burrow-dwelling creatures like the mantis shrimp make some sort of noise, and our research is going to help us better understand life and communication on the ocean floor."

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The study revealed that each mantis shrimp made noise, with individuals all seeming to produce their own characteristic sounds. The males were heard making loud rhythmic "rumbles" with their trios. (You can listen to certain mantis rumbles here.) Each male measures about 8 to 10 inches long, so these are sizeable shrimp that can create quite a din, especially if you imagine numerous trios all rumbling in the same area.

"These sounds recorded in the field were different than what we recorded in tanks, so to hear these creatures communicating in the wild was very special," Staaterman said. "Our research team noted the 'rumbles' were so synchronized that it sounded like a chorus, similar to that of groups of birds or frogs.

(Watercolor of mantis shrimp communicating by Erica Staaterman)

To read more about rumbling shrimp, you can Download B013p097.

 And mantis shrimp aren't the only shrimp with impressive talent. Check out this video showing pistol shrimp. You'll quickly see how this crustacean got its name.