Mantis Shrimp

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

mantis shrimp sometimes called ‘sea locust’, a crustacean which is the marine counterpart of the insect known as praying mantis. The layman would be apt to compare it to prawns and lobsters, despite some obvious differences; but scientists group it with crabs. Of its five pairs of legs, the front ones are extensions of the mouth and those immediately behind are powerful ones with a jack-knife action which permits them to be used for seizing and slicing up prey.

Mantis shrimps are found in warm or temperate waters around the world, but are ignored in some regions. The main European species is Squilla mantis, matched on the eastern seaboard of the USA by S. empusa. Both have a maximum length of 25 cm (10"), and the same applies to Harpiosquilla harpax, the most common of the various species in SE Asia. The largest Indo-Pacific species is H. raphidea (up to 35 cm/13").