Last week, a couple fishing near Fort Pierce, Florida captured what they jokingly described as an "alien creature." It turns out the creature has now been identified by a local biology professor as a mantis shrimp or stomatopod.
"Praying mantis have similar [appendages], which is why these creatures are sometimes called 'mantis shrimp,'" said Roy Caldwell, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley. Caldwell is the man who identified the creature.
Stomatopods are easily identified by their prominent claws which are used to stab or smash prey. According to Caldwell, the specimen caught in Florida belongs to a species of Lysiosquilla. They have three pairs of walking legs and a large, articulated abdomen.
"This particular group — Lysiosquillidae — are almost all banded yellow and black across their bodies," Caldwell said. "They can live for 30 years and can grow to be 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) long."
However, the Fort Pierce specimen doesn't belong to the largest stomatopod species. According to Caldwell, Lysiosquillina maculata, which inhabit the Pacific Ocean from Hawaii to east Africa, can grow to 15 inches (38 cm) long.
Mantis shrimp hide under rock formations and live in burrows on the sea floor. They don't venture out often, which is why they may be mistaken for alien creatures if you've never seen one before.