This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.
On exhibit at the National Aquarium is the world’s most outlandish rock star. The mantis shrimp. Think colorful pop Katy Perry meets the incredible range of Freddie Mercury, but with a Hulksmashing claw fast as a bullet (according to Wikipedia, “some larger species of mantis shrimp are capable of breaking through aquarium glass with a single strike from this weapon” and vision so much better than ours that RadioLab compared it to a full chorus.
Move waaay over foxes or “Put a bird on it” from Portlandia, the mantis is having a moment. I predict hipster mantis shrimp t-shirts this summer. You might even find me rocking one underneath a pastel colored crop top jacket, that — horrifyingly for anyone who remembers the 80s — are back in again. WWTMSD? (What would the mantis shrimp do?)
In comparing myself to this freaking invertebrate, supposedly less evolved than me, I find — well, I find myself feeling shrimpy. I can only see the colors of the rainbow. The thing I want to Hulksmash is the laundry, and I’m kind of weak and ineffectual at breaking through aquarium glass. I’m more of a timid tapper, in my 20 gallon suburban Baltimore tank.
However, I think it’s important to stretch our imagination and remind ourselves of our place in the world by comparing ourselves to other animals, and failing to feel superior. Having a backbone isn’t all that and a bag of chips (if crop tops are back, I’m bringing back 80s slang with them, dang.)
We aren’t the be-all, as we have come to believe, even as we are looking to terra-form Mars and calling this geological era the Anthropocene. The mantis shrimp is bad ass and it’s been around the block a lot longer than we’ve been on Earth.
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