When a pistol shrimp senses prey is nearby, it will open the top part of its big claw, allowing some water to enter a small chamber in the crook of the claw. Then, when it clamps down, the pressure from a small plunger on the top claw forces the water out of the chamber. This happens so fast that it creates bubbles. And not just any bubbles: these bubbles can speed out at 60 miles per hour, fast enough to stun or kill the prey! When the bubbles pop, it makes a “snap” sound that gives these shrimp their name.
The bubbles are loud. Like, really loud. The snap of one recently-discovered species of pistol shrimp called Synalpheus pinkfloydi (named after something else that is also loud and very cool: Pink Floyd) can reach 210 decibels. That is louder than an actual gunshot, which is around 140 – 175 decibels.
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