Stomatopoda: Families
S.T. Ahyong & J.K. Lowry

Division of Invertebrate Zoology
The Australian Museum
6 College Street, Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia
Phone: 612 9320 6260
Fax: 612 9320 6050

Monographs and Interactive keys


The order Stomatopoda includes the crustaceans commonly known as mantis shrimps or mantis prawns. The carapace is broad and shield-like, and the body is elongate and either subcylindrical or dorsoventrally flattened. The pleopods are biramous and flap-like; the gills are filamentous and carried on the outer branch. The first five pairs of thoracic limbs (maxillipeds) are subchelate. The last three pairs of thoracopods are walking legs (peraeopods). The telson and uropods are well developed forming an elaborate tail-fan. The most distinctive feature of the stomatopods, however, is the second maxilliped, which is greatly enlarged as a raptorial claw. The raptorial claws may be divided into two functional forms: 'spearers' and 'smashers' (Caldwell and Dingle, 1976). 'Spearing' claws bear a series of long, curved, dactylar teeth on which soft bodied prey are impaled. 'Smashing' claws bear an inflated, calcified heel at the base of the dactyl which is used as a hammer to break open hard bodied prey such as snails and crabs. As a rule, stomatopods are cryptic, benthic predators and are seldom encountered despite their abundance. Little is known of the biology of Australian species.

Stomatopods are primarily tropical or subtropical, with few species in cool temperate or subantarctic waters. They occupy burrows or crevices intertidally and subtidally on all types of substrate. Gonodactyloids generally occur on hard or rough substrates and are the dominant stomatopods on coral reefs. Squilloids, eurysquilloids, parasquilloids and lysiosquilloids burrow in soft, level substrates and are often taken by prawn trawling. Whereas most species live in shallow water, species of the superfamily Bathysquilloidea are found on outer shelf habitats, down to 1500m (Manning, 1991).

Vision in stomatopods is remarkably well developed. In most species, the cornea is bisected by a central band of ommatidia such that each eye is capable of binocular vision. Further, this central band of ommatidia in many species is specialized for colour vision and detecting polarized light (Marshall, 1988).

In stomatopods, the sexes are easily distinguished by external features. Males bear a pair of long, slender penes, articulating at the bases of the last peraeopods. The female gonopores are located on the sternum between the first peraeopods as a narrow slit. Sexual dimorphism is present in many species and is usually marked in mature males by inflation of the raptorial claws and dorsal armature of the telson. Whereas most stomatopods are solitary, lysiosquillids and several nannosquillids live in monogamous pairs.

Unlike many decapods which carry eggs on the pleopods, female stomatopods carry the egg mass with the maxillipeds or cement the eggs to the wall of the burrow until hatched. There is no nauplius larval stage. Initial larval stages are either benthic or pelagic but all subsequent stages are pelagic. Lysiosquilloid larvae hatch at the earliest stage of development, known as antizoeae, bearing five pairs of biramous thoracic appendages, but lacking abdominal appendages. The antizoea develops into an erichthus stage, bearing two or fewer intermediate denticles on the telson and pleopods appearing progressively from front to rear. Squilloid and gonodactyloid larvae hatch as a pseudozoea, bearing two pairs of uniramous thoracic appendages and four or five pairs of pleopods respectively. Squilloid pseodozoeae develop into an alima larva with four or more intermediate denticles on the telson, whereas gonodactyloid pseudozoeae develop into an erichthus larva. Pelagic larvae may be abundant in the plankton, particularly during summer, and may be important prey for planktivorous fish. Settling postlarvae resemble adults and assume the lifestyle of the adults. The development of members of the other superfamilies, Erythrosquilloidea, Eurysquilloidea, Bathysquilloidea and Parasquilloidea, is poorly known.

About 450 species of stomatopods are known, arrayed in 17 families and 7 superfamilies. Hof (1998) and Ahyong & Harling (2000) are the most recent phylogenetic studies of the stomatopods, and Manning (1995) and Ahyong (2001) are the most recent major taxonomic studies.

Monographs Monograph and Interactive Keys Interactive Key

Stomatopoda Families Monograph Interactive Key
Alainosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Bathysquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Coronididae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Erythrosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Eurysquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Gonodactylidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Hemisquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Indosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Lysiosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Nannosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Odontodactylidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Parasquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Protosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Pseudosquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Squillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Takuidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)
Tetrasquillidae Monograph Interactive Key (not available)

This publication should be cited as : Ahyong, S.T. & J.K. Lowry, 2001. Stomatopoda: Families. Version 1: 1 September 2001.