Organisms such as jumping froghopper insects and punching mantis shrimp use spring-based propulsion to achieve fast motion. Studies of elastic mechanisms have primarily focused on fully developed and functional mechanisms in adult organisms. However, the ontogeny and development of these mechanisms can provide important insights into the lower size limits of spring-based propulsion, the ecological or behavioral relevance of ultrafast movement, and the scaling of ultrafast movement. Here, we examined the development of the spring-latch mechanism in the bigclaw snapping shrimp, Alpheus heterochaelis (Alpheidae). Adult snapping shrimp use an enlarged claw to produce high-speed strikes that generate cavitation bubbles. However, until now, it was unclear when the elastic mechanism emerges during development and whether juvenile snapping shrimp can generate cavitation at this size. We reared A. heterochaelis from eggs, through their larval and postlarval stages. Starting 1 month after hatching, the snapping shrimp snapping claw gradually developed a spring-actuated mechanism and began snapping. We used high-speed videography (300,000 frames s−1) to measure juvenile snaps. We discovered that juvenile snapping shrimp generate the highest recorded accelerations (5.8×105±3.3×105 m s−2) for repeated-use, underwater motion and are capable of producing cavitation at the millimeter scale. The angular velocity of snaps did not change as juveniles grew; however, juvenile snapping shrimp with larger claws produced faster linear speeds and generated larger, longer-lasting cavitation bubbles. These findings establish the development of the elastic mechanism and cavitation in snapping shrimp and provide insights into early life-history transitions in spring-actuated mechanisms.

You do not currently have access to this content.