Flow visualisation and high speed video analysis of water jets in the snapping shrimp (Alpheus beterochaelis)

J. Herberholz, B. Schmitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Snapping shrimp (Alpheus heterochaelis) produce a fast, well-focused water jet by rapid closure of their specialised snapper claw. As shown previously, water jets may injure the opponent in interspecific encounters (e.g. with small crabs) although no damage was observed in intraspecific encounters. For conspecific receivers the jet represents a potential hydrodynamic signal and can be analysed with the help of mechanosensory hairs. To gain more insight in the biophysical characteristics of the water jet we visualised and analysed jets of tethered snapping shrimp using standard and high speed video recordings. Water jet width increases with increasing distance from the snapper claw tip, and both width and distance increase with increasing snapper claw size. Water jet distances do not increase with increasing claw cocking duration (building up muscle tension) but medium cocking durations of about 550 ms result in longest distances. Mean water jet velocity is 6.5 m s-1 shortly after claw closure but rapidly decreases subsequently. At the mean distance between snapping conspecifics (9 mm) water jet velocities produced by snapping shrimp with larger snapper claws are significantly higher than those of animals with smaller claws. Interestingly, males with equal snapper claw size as females produce significantly faster water jets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1999


  • Agonistic encounter
  • Alpheus heterochaelis
  • Flow visualisation
  • Snapping shrimp
  • Water jet


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