Patek, S. N. 2015. The most powerful movements in biology. American Scientist 103(5): 330-337.
What is faster than a speeding cheetah? Not Superman—mantis shrimp appendages for smashing snails. Such ultrafast movements far surpass the animals most associated with speed, such as cheetahs. In fact, calculating their speed and figuring out their mechanics was not even possible until the last decade or so, when high-speed imaging’s frame rates could actually capture the steps of the motions. The extreme power of such movements does not rely on powerful musculature, but rather uses spring loading. In this feature, Patek details how these movements work, and why these specialized movements might evolve and fit into life histories, using the mantis shrimp as a case study.