Superheroes, Death Rays And A Shrimp Supper

Seriously, though, sound can kill you.

It is a long time since I had beery conversations with compatriots in a pub, under the watchful eye of a jaded, worldweary landlord.

I miss the bragalogues; those rambling ridiculous show-off pieces of rhetoric which came from the head of someone whose synapses were not firing on all cylinders.

Perhaps I have been gone too long. Tonight I read of a creature who would have sent an inebriated conversation to the stars.

His name belongs in the Wild West, his hunting methods come straight out of a Marvel comic. But this superhero is only just over one inch long, and he lives in the deep sea, where he disrupts submarine communications for giggles.

He gives me cause to thank my lucky stars that I am not marine, or aquatic, or very very small. Small ineffectual creatures of the deep sea, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Because sound can kill you. Seriously.

If you are a small defenceless shrimp, you don’t want to be around when the pistol shrimp comes to town.

Do not be fooled by his stature. Yes, he is only between 3-5 centimetres long. But stand well back. Far, far back. And watch him hunt.

He is called the pistol shrimp because of his claw. It is made of two parts, a hammer and an anvil, if you like.

The shrimp can pull back the hammer and lock it at right angles to the other half. Lock and load, boys.

And then he releases it. And emits a sound wave of more than 200 decibels.

Let’s put that into context. It seems commonly held that the noise in the front row at a rock concert might start at 120 decibels. A 200 strong marching band might measure 130db,topping an ear-piercing human scream which measures 128 db.

It is at 202 decibels that any human would be unable to survive, and the pistol shrimp generates eight more decibels than that.

He does it by releasing a blast of bubbles. As they collapse they reach, for an instant, the temperature of the sun.

I’m serious here.

So this shrimp of about five centimetres sends out a sonic death ray equivalent to the noise of a small earthquake, as hot as the sun. And for what?

To stun a smaller shrimp.

Have you ever felt unappreciated? Have you ever watched your light hidden under a bushel? Felt frustrated because those key skills weren’t getting their chance to shine?

On land this creature would rule the earth. We’d all be captives, Planet-Of-The-Apes style. Except with shrimps.

But creation has hidden it where all it can do is stun a few shrimps and scramble submarine signals.

It reminds me of a friend’s catch phrase: Paula, at Reflections in a Cloudy Mirror, always ends by wishing us enough. For that is what we need, when all is said and done.

The Pistol Shrimp – thank our stars – does not have an ego which urges it to world domination. All it needs is a shrimp supper.

For him, fame and fortune are not required.

All he needs is enough.

Thanks Natalie Dee from for the fabulous illustration. Go take a look at her site here!


50 thoughts on “Superheroes, Death Rays And A Shrimp Supper

  1. Crikey. dB is a logarithmic unit used to describe a ratio, similar to the way earthquake magnitude is measured – that makes that noise HUGE!
    I found this:
    “On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB.”
    What illustrated this well for me is that a whisper is 5 dB while normal conversation is 60 dB.

    1. I use a decibelmeter to work with my children at school to illustrate appropriate tones of voice, Pseu. Enlightening to test it out oneself. 202db must be just unimaginably loud. And from a shrimp…

    1. Hi 😀 Thanks for commenting! It does kind of dwarf Hendrix decibel-wise…though you and I know his stature will always be that of a guitar-playing god….

  2. And sound travels faster in water than in air, so he gets instant BBQed shrimp – very efficient, but total overkill. Weirdly wonderful, Kate.

  3. I would love to have a beery conversation with you Kate – I’m sure you would blow everyone away with your stories – haha – this one is a cracker (lets give thanks that this little noise machine is confined to the deeps)

  4. Yikes! I haven’t known about that charming little fellow before. If scaled up a bit, it would make sharks and rays and things seem tame. Maybe Shakespeare had met one when he wrote: ‘Pistol’s cock is up, and flashing fire will follow’ in Henry V?

      1. Yip, and on another front it does make one feel that shrimp cocktail is a form of poetic justice when one hears of their own dining habits!

  5. Scary thought, heat and sound, killer of the deep.

    Surely there are many such creatures, poisons, strangulation etc etc, all hidden away, just doing their thing

  6. That’s an amazing little quirk of nature! I can’t wait to drop this bit of information neatly into some future conversation–trivia at its very best, I think. Practicng enough fits well in times like these, and ought to instruct us how to guard against disappointment. If we could teach our children this early in life the positive reverberations would be limitless…thank you for such a reminder! D

  7. Totally blown away! Who knew? You have thrown me into such a state of fascination, I want to dash into the village and share this incredible knowledge with all those shrimp fisherman – they’re prawns around here.

    A shrimp, by any name or power, will send me to the Emergency Ward. They, for some reason, fall into the label “shellfish” when it comes to allergies.

      1. While on a ferry home, a friend and I just googled these little pistols on her IPhone – to find out where they resided.

        Our waters are far too cold, unless a couple hitchhike on a tramp steamer like the two who ended up in the marine museum in England.

  8. I was never interested in the “Planet of the Apes” films, but I would love to see the “Planet of the Shrimp” if it was five minutes long and animated Natalie Dee-style. They sound like entertaining little suckers.

  9. Dear Kate, thanks for sharing a fellow blogger use of “enough.” I’ve spent a few moments thinking of what that means in my life. And I discover that the word is enough. Thank you for that. Peace.

  10. Had never heard of the pistol shrimp! There you go educating us again 🙂
    And yes, ‘enough’ is all we need. Thanks Kate

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