Mantis Shrimp Colors: How Many Colors Can Mantis Shrimp See

Mantis shrimp, often hailed as some of the best marine animals, have captivated researchers and enthusiasts alike due to their remarkable colors and unparalleled visual abilities. With their vibrant hues and complex vision systems, these creatures provide a fascinating subject for investigation. In this article, we delve into the world of mantis shrimp colors and their extraordinary capacity to perceive the underwater realm in ways that humans can only dream of.

Mantis shrimp colors: how many colors can mantis shrimp see

Mantis shrimp colors, sensitive to colour, have a simple, efficient mechanism for colour vision, according to a report in Science. The shrimp, with 12 different types of colour photoreceptors, can see hues that humans, with just 3, could not. This finding contradicts the belief that shrimp have more light-detecting cells than humans.

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Mantis shrimp's supercolor vision debunked

Mantis shrimp colors: how many colors can mantis shrimp see? The mantis shrimp colors, a species of shrimp, have been trained to recognize ten specific color wavelengths, ranging from 400 to 650 nanometers. The shrimp can discriminate between their trained wavelengths and another color 50-100 nanometres up or down the spectrum. However, when the difference between the trained and test wavelengths was reduced to 12-25 nanometres, the shrimp could no longer tell them apart.

 The shrimp eye, which has 12 receptors, is less sensitive than the human eye but does not require brain-power-heavy comparisons. This may give the predatory shrimp a speed advantage in distinguishing between different-colored prey. The study is an important step towards understanding the complexity of the mantis-shrimp eye and the brain’s use of visual signals.

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Mantis Shrimp Anatomy and Colors:

Mantis Shrimp Punch Heat

Mantis shrimp, also known as stomatopods, are marine crustaceans found primarily in tropical and subtropical waters. While they are not true shrimp, they share some physical characteristics with these creatures. Mantis shrimp come in a dazzling array of colors, ranging from vibrant reds and oranges to striking blues and greens. Their colors are not just aesthetically pleasing; they play a crucial role in communication, camouflage, and hunting.

Color Perception:

The visual system of mantis shrimp is a marvel of evolution. While humans possess three types of color receptors (cones), mantis shrimp have an astounding 12 to 16 different types of photoreceptor cells. This extraordinary diversity of photoreceptors allows mantis shrimp to perceive an extensive spectrum of colors that far exceeds human capabilities. They can detect colors in the ultraviolet range, a region of the spectrum invisible to humans.

Polarization Vision:

Beyond their impressive color vision, mantis shrimp are also equipped with specialized cells that enable them to detect polarized light. Polarization is the orientation of light waves, and many underwater phenomena, such as the position of the sun and the presence of prey, are influenced by it. Mantis shrimp can exploit polarized light to enhance their hunting strategies, locate prey, and communicate with other individuals.

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Communication and Camouflage:

Mantis shrimp employ their vibrant colors not only to communicate but also to blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Their remarkable ability to adjust their colors and patterns aids in both attracting mates and evading predators. The colors they exhibit can change rapidly due to the presence of chromatophores in their skin, which expand and contract to reveal different hues

Hunting Techniques and Visual Precision:

Mantis shrimp are voracious predators known for their lightning-fast strikes. Their exceptional visual precision, combined with powerful appendages, enables them to capture prey with incredible accuracy. Their unique visual system allows them to calculate the distance, speed, and trajectory of their attacks, making them highly efficient hunters.

Challenges in Studying Mantis Shrimp Vision:

While researchers continue to uncover the mysteries of mantis shrimp vision, studying these creatures presents its own challenges. Their intricate visual system and complex behaviors require innovative techniques and technologies to fully understand. Nonetheless, the insights gained from studying mantis shrimp have the potential to revolutionize various fields, from optics to material science.

Implications for Human Technology:

The astonishing visual capabilities of mantis shrimp have inspired scientists to develop new technologies, such as advanced imaging systems and sensors, that mimic their abilities. By harnessing the principles of mantis shrimp vision, researchers aim to create tools that can detect hidden objects, enhance medical imaging, and improve underwater exploration.

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Different Color Recognition Needs and Approaches

Mantis shrimp colors: how many colors can mantis shrimp see

The mantis shrimp has found a shortcut to color processing by utilizing its large number of photoreceptors. These shrimp can pick up complex colors without merging multiple sources of information, allowing them to process them unconsciously. 

This processing allows humans to think about colors before seeing them, but it also means that our consciousness is slightly behind what is happening in the real world. Our view of the world is always slightly behind reality due to the slow processes our brains process from our eyes. This is not the case for the mantis shrimp, as they live in a world shaped by similar slow processes. This makes it possible for the shrimp to see the present and experience complex colors without the need for conscious thought.

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Different visions for different life paces

Mantis shrimp, with their powerful speed and complex color vision, can move at 50 mph and break through aquariums. This unique color vision bypasses the neurological legwork of humans, allowing them to see complex colors more quickly. This allows them to catch their prey faster and react to them more quickly than competing predators. While some may argue that a shrimp’s supervision is a myth, it’s important to remember that vision is more than just color combinations. Mantis shrimp’s eyes still have some surprising surprises to offer us.

Unique interaction with ultraviolet light

Mantis shrimp colors: how many colors can mantis shrimp see

Mantis shrimp, known for their ultraviolet sensitivity, have six photoreceptors that detect light in the ultraviolet range. However, only two opsins are sensitive to ultraviolet light. This is due to a crystalline structure above each photoreceptor, which contains mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs). These MAAs can block or filter UV light, allowing the shrimp to react to color more quickly. This allows the shrimp to conserve resources and avoid unnecessary biological waste.

Consolidating information for a clear answer

Mantis shrimp‘s vision is peculiar, making it difficult to make accurate comparisons to other animals. Their eyes are not just about their photoreceptors, but also their neurological differences. The human brain handles most color perception, while the mantis shrimp’s biology focuses on avoiding the neurological processing of visual data.

While they can see into ranges that humans cannot, their ability to use that data is considerably lacking. The mantis shrimp’s view of color is alien to humans and is distinct from most other forms of life on Earth. Science is still developing a better understanding of their vision, but each new discovery will contribute to understanding the nature of color perception.

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Mantis shrimp are known to possess an impressive range of color vision due to their complex visual system. Unlike humans, who have three types of color receptors (cones) corresponding to red, green, and blue wavelengths, mantis shrimp can have up to 12 to 16 different types of photoreceptor cells. This exceptional diversity allows them to perceive a vast array of colors, including those in the ultraviolet spectrum that are invisible to humans

Mantis shrimp vision far surpasses human vision in terms of both color perception and complexity. While humans can see colors within the visible spectrum, mantis shrimp can detect colors well beyond that range, including ultraviolet light. Additionally, their ability to distinguish between different polarizations of light adds another dimension to their vision, enabling them to perceive underwater phenomena with astonishing precision.

Photoreceptors are specialized cells in the retina of an organism’s eye that enable them to detect and process light. In mantis shrimp, photoreceptors are responsible for capturing light at various wavelengths. The presence of multiple types of photoreceptor cells in mantis shrimp allows them to detect a wide range of colors. Each type of photoreceptor is sensitive to specific wavelengths of light, contributing to the mantis shrimp’s ability to perceive a diverse spectrum of colors.

Mantis shrimp can potentially see a remarkable number of colors due to their extensive range of photoreceptor cells. While the exact number of colors they can perceive is challenging to quantify precisely, their ability to differentiate between various wavelengths of light, including ultraviolet, suggests that their color vision is vastly more sophisticated than that of humans.

The idea that mantis shrimp can see exactly 16 colors might be an oversimplification. Their color vision is not limited to a fixed number of discrete colors, as it depends on the numerous types of photoreceptor cells they possess. Their capacity to perceive colors goes beyond the limitations of human color vision, making it difficult to equate their abilities to a specific number.

Mantis shrimp evolved their intricate color vision as an adaptation to their environment and behaviors. In their underwater habitats, different colors can provide essential information about mates, prey, predators, and other environmental cues. The ability to perceive a wide range of colors and polarizations gives mantis shrimp a significant advantage in tasks such as hunting, communication, and navigating their surroundings.

Mantis shrimp can perceive a broader range of colors than humans, extending into the ultraviolet spectrum. However, it’s important to note that their perception is still limited by their photoreceptor cells’ sensitivity to specific wavelengths. While they can see a vast array of colors, there might still be colors or wavelengths outside their visual range.


Mantis shrimp, often lauded as some of the best marine animals, captivate us with their mesmerizing colors and unparalleled vision. Their extraordinary ability to perceive a vast spectrum of colors, including ultraviolet light, opens up new realms of understanding in the fields of biology, optics, and technology. As we continue to uncover the secrets of mantis shrimp vision, we gain insights that have the potential to transform the way we see the world both above and below the waves.

In this article, we’ve explored the captivating world of mantis shrimp colors and their remarkable visual capabilities. These creatures, often regarded as some of the best marine animals, are a testament to the beauty and complexity of life beneath the ocean’s surface. As researchers delve deeper into the mysteries of mantis shrimp vision, they unveil insights that not only enhance our understanding of the natural world but also inspire groundbreaking technological advancements.

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