Odontodactylus scyllarus

Geographic Range

Peacock mantis shrimp are found in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, south of Japan, north of Australia, and between eastern Africa and Guam. ("Odontodactylus scyllarus", 2012; Caldwell, 2006)


Peacock mantis shrimp can be found at depths of 3-40 m, though they are most typically found at depths of 10-30 m. They prefer water temperatures of 22-28°C. These mantis shrimp are most commonly found in their U-shaped burrows, often built near the bases of coral reefs on sandy and gravelly areas. (Baxamusa, 2010; Caldwell, 2006)

  • Range depth
    3 to 40 m
    9.84 to 131.23 ft

Physical Description

Peacock mantis shrimp are crustaceans, most closely resembling lobsters. They are very brightly colored, with a base body color of olive or green, brightly covered orange antennae scales, red raptorial appendages (used to smash prey), red setae on their uropods, and leopard like spots covering the lateral sides of the lower carapace. Their compound eyes are blue in color. Body coloration is sexually dimorphic, with males being being more brightly colored. The carapace is slightly raised, covering only the lower half of the head, leaving the portion with the eyes exposed. These mantis shrimp average 3-18 cm in length. They have long, narrow bodies, and in addition to their raptorial appendages, a pair of maxillopods, three pairs of legs used for holding prey, three pairs of walking legs, and five pairs of swimmerets, before the body terminates in the telson and paired uropods. ("Odontodactylus scyllarus", 2012; Baxamusa, 2010; Brauchli, 2008; Caldwell, 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range length
    3 to 18 cm
    1.18 to 7.09 in


Typically, stomatopod eggs are carried in a mass by the female, who cares for them until they hatch. Not much is known about the larval development of peacock mantis shrimp, specifically. However, the larval development of a related species, split-thumb mantis shrimp (Gonodactylus bredini) has been well documented. The larvae of split-thumb mantis shrimp undergo seven larval stages before reaching maturity. Each of the first three stages lasts from 1-3 days, and larvae stay in a burrow until reaching the fourth larval stage, which lasts 6-8 days. Collectively, the final three stages may take 38 days to complete. After completing their seven larval stages, a final molt, taking up to eight days, results in a mature adult. (Christy and Salmon, 1991; Morgan and Goy, 1987; San Juan, 1998)


Mantis shrimp mate, spawn, brood, and hatch their eggs in their burrows, making details regarding these processes difficult to observe. Peacock mantis shrimp are usually monogamous; however, individuals have been seen mating with different partners on occasion. Females are oviparous, and males have an external copulatory organ; sperm is released by the male, held briefly by the female, and then released along with her eggs, where fertilization occurs. Fertilized eggs join together in a mass, held together with adhesive produced by the female. She carries the egg mass on her front thoracic appendages and broods them in her burrow, caring for, cleaning, and aerating them. She does not eat during this time. (Morgan and Goy, 1987; San Juan, 1998; Wortham-Neal, 2002)

These mantis shrimp are believed to be reproductively active throughout the year, with peaks during the warmer months. Mantis shrimp spawn nocturnally. (Morgan and Goy, 1987; Wortham-Neal, 2002)

  • Breeding interval
    Mating occurs multiple times throughout the year.
  • Breeding season
    Peacock mantis shrimp breed year round, with reproductive peaks during warmer months.
  • Range gestation period
    9 to 60 days
  • Average gestation period
    40 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    35 to 70 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    35 to 70 days

Maternal investment in mantis shrimp is much higher than paternal investment. Females usually stay in their burrows when brooding eggs, rarely leaving the burrow prior to hatching. Females use their maxillipeds (appendages on the head normally used for feeding), to clean and aerate the eggs; they do not typically eat while brooding eggs. Male peacock mantis shrimp are not known to exhibit parental investment, although it is possible that they guard their mates' burrows as do their close relatives, split-thumb mantis shrimp (Gonodactylus bredini). (Morgan and Goy, 1987; San Juan, 1998; Wortham-Neal, 2002)


Peacock mantis shrimp can live 4-6 years. (Caldwell, 2006; Cronin, et al., 2000; Patek and Caldwell, 2006)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    4 to 6 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4 to 6 hours
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    4 to 6 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    4 to 6 years


Peacock mantis shrimp are very aggressive hunters and are active both during the day and at night. They are typically solitary outside of mating. When peacock mantis shrimp are resting, they can usually be found in the U-shaped burrows that they create at the bases of coral. Peacock mantis shrimp are known to be territorial, with individuals using their powerful smashers to strike each others' tail areas; for this reason, the telson is the most heavily armored part of their bodies. The powerful strikes of peacock mantis shrimp are powered by elastic forces, meaning that the farther back they pull their raptorial appendages, the stronger the strike; speeds of up to 20 m/s have been recorded for a strike. Each strike actually generates two blows, one from the impact of the limb itself (400-1501 Newtons) and one from the explosion of a cavitation bubble created from the initial impact (up to 504 Newtons). When kept in aquaria, these mantis shrimp have been known to crack the glass of their tanks. ("Odontodactylus scyllarus", 2012; Claverie, et al., 2011; Patek and Caldwell, 2005; Patek, et al., 2007)

Home Range

There is no information currently available regarding home range or territory size for this species; however, they tend to remain in or close to their small burrows. ("Odontodactylus scyllarus", 2012)

Communication and Perception

Peacock mantis shrimp perceive their environment visually through their stalked compound eyes. They are capable of processing ultraviolet and polarized light, as well as color; their visual capabilities are extremely important to their success as hunters. Mantis shrimp also communicate through vibrations, created by contractions of posterior muscles and known as stomatopod rumbles. These vibrations are used for territorial and defensive purposes; individuals may create vibrations while in their burrows, warning potential predators or other conspecifics to keep their distance. They are also able to detect smells in the water. (Claverie, et al., 2011; Cronin and Marshall, 2001; Cronin, et al., 2000; Cronin, et al., 1994)

Food Habits

Peacock mantis shrimp are carnivorous; prey items include gastropods, crustaceans, and bivalves. In the wild, they are known to eat scallops such as Annachlamys flabellata, although crabs are their preferred prey. Peacock mantis shrimp are "smashers," using their rapptorial appendages as described above to break open their prey's shell. In captivity, these mantis shrimp have been known to attack and eat fishes as well. ("Odontodactylus scyllarus", 2012; Patek and Caldwell, 2006)

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans


Peacock mantis shrimp do not have many known predators; they have, however, been found in the stomachs of yellowfin tuna. Smaller individuals in particular may be prey to larger reef fishes. To avoid predators, peacock mantis shrimp hide in their burrows, using vibrations ("stomatopod rumbles") to warn potential attackers. (Patek and Caldwell, 2005; Patek, et al., 2007; Potier, et al., 2004)

Ecosystem Roles

Peacock mantis shrimp create their burrows near coral bases; they constantly create new burrows and abandon older ones, creating new habitats for other animals. Although data regarding specific parasitic infections in this species is not currently available, larger individuals in aquaria have been seen with various shell diseases. ("Odontodactylus scyllarus", 2012; Baxamusa, 2010; Caldwell, 2006; Potier, et al., 2004)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • creates habitat

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Peacock mantis shrimp are often kept in aquaria because they are brightly colored and very active. They are used in a variety of research, particularly on vision and digital storage. The eyes of this mantis shrimp are more advanced than human eyes, capable of processing ultraviolet, infrared, and polarized light. Current digital storage methods (CDs) use only a single wavelength in data storage; if additional wavelengths could be utilized, storage capacity would increase greatly. (Baxamusa, 2010; Caldwell, 2006)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Although they are popular, peacock mantis shrimp can be problematic to keep in aquaria as they are capable of breaking aquarium glass and are known to be aggressive to other animals kept with them. These animals are sometimes introduced to aquaria accidentally if they happen to be hiding in collected rock or coral. (Baxamusa, 2010; Caldwell, 2006)

Conservation Status

Peacock mantis shrimp have not been evaluated by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, but are not considered endangered or threatened by any agency. ("The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species", 2013)


Frankie Chiu (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Jeremy Wright (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map


living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


union of egg and spermatozoan


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


an animal that mainly eats fish

polarized light

light waves that are oriented in particular direction. For example, light reflected off of water has waves vibrating horizontally. Some animals, such as bees, can detect which way light is polarized and use that information. People cannot, unless they use special equipment.


structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


mature spermatozoa are stored by females following copulation. Male sperm storage also occurs, as sperm are retained in the male epididymes (in mammals) for a period that can, in some cases, extend over several weeks or more, but here we use the term to refer only to sperm storage by females.


uses touch to communicate


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others


uses sight to communicate

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


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