Looking for rare species of mantis shrimp

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Posted by Jon on June 06, 2005 at 15:23:58:

A professor at Berkeley is looking to collect a particular species of mantis-shrimp for study. If any of you might know of where to find such a specimen please contact him directly.

He also provided a follow-up email (pasted at bottom) with info on collecting a live specimen if anyone feels so inclined, but many species of mantis shrimp (including the most common ones locally) are extremely dangerous, so beware.

-----Forwarded Message-----
From: Roy Caldwell
Sent: Jun 6, 2005 1:19 PM
To: mail@sandeaters.org
Subject: Looking for an unusual mantis shrimp

Please excuse this unsolicted email, but I found your club on the web and thought that you might be able to help me in my research. For the past 35 years I have been studying stomatopod crustaceans (mantis shrimp) and recently started a project on their vision and communication system. While I have collected these animals around the world, one Southern California species has eluded me, Pseudosquillopsis marmorata. From preserved specimens that I have seen, it appears to have a most unusual eye and I am trying to locate one or more live specimens for study. My students and I have made several trips to Southern California looking for them, but without success. I have only seen one. That occurred on a night dive at 60 feet off the east side of Catalina. Collecting reports suggest that this species occurs from shallow water to over 50 m living in burrows in soft sediments. The burrows are u-shaped and often extend under the edge of a rock. The reason that I may have missed them is because it now appears that they are nocturnal. I've spoken to a couple of divers who have seen them out and about on night dives.

I am therefore contacting your organization since you appear to make frequent night dives and I'm hoping that one of your members might spot one or more of these animals. They are 2-5 inches long, have a bilobed eye, and the tail is a characteristic purple and pink. They are smaller and less dramatically colored than the common Hemisquilla californiensis that you may be familiar with.

As I said, I really need one or a few animals alive. I would be happy to pay all shipping costs and would buy the club more than a few cases of beer if you could come up with one. I've taken the liberty to attach a low resolution photo of an animal trawled of San Diego.

I would greatly appreciate any help you can provide. If anyone would like more information, please feel free to contact me at: rlcaldwell@berkeley.edu.


Roy L. Caldwell

Roy Caldwell
Professor, Department of Integrative Biology
Director, U.C. Museum of Paleontology
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-3140

Phone: 510-642-1391
Cell: 510-499-2016
Fax: 510-643-6264
Email: rlcaldwell@berkeley.edu

P. marmorata is a spearer, so it does not have much of a punch. Actually, the tail spines are probably as dangerous as the raptorial appendages. Normal diving gloves should be more than adequate to protect a diver. When collecting spearers this size, I usually carry a 6-8'' ordinary green aquarium net and either a nylon net bag with a purse string or better a plastic water bottled (200 cc or so) with a several 1/8" holes drilled in it. Once I have a net over the animal, I grab it through the net, pick it up, and stick the head end into the bottle. When it is in, I close the lid and stick the bottle in my wetsuit. If the animal goes down a burrow, in softer mud and sand, since they are in a u-burrow, I can usually push my finger through the burrow until I see where the other end of the burrow is. I then put the net over that opening and keep pushing from the other end. They almost never strike and the dive glove is enough protection. Obviously you would not want to do this with a 10 inch Hemisquilla. For those guys, I usually use a noose placed in the entrance of the burrow and tease them out of the entrance with food, then noose them. From there they go into a large goodie bag.

Once I have the animal on the surface (no problem with the pressure change unless they have been stored in pressurized air which I once did in the Aquarius) they can be kept in a 2 liter water bottle with the cap open. Most mantis shrimp are very sensitive to organic chemicals, so we have to be careful to use clean buckets and containers that have never contained solvents or soaps.

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