Capped by Crustaceans

Pugnacious prawn headlines a veritable shrimp buffet

Published September 22, 2023

Eric Keihl is the managing editor for Questionist’s parent company, Geeks Who Drink. Each week, he will accept a reader challenge to write an entire, quiz-ready trivia round on some tricky or obscure subject. You can challenge Eric here.

This week’s theme is “Shrimp,” suggested by Jenna Merry at Meat Mitch in Kansas City! Thanks, Jenna!

Oh, hell yes. Gotta admit, I had an ulterior motive for picking this one. Let’s talk about my favorite animal: the pistol shrimp. AKA the snapping shrimp, these buggers have a single oversized claw that’s half the size of their two-inch bodies. By closing this mega-claw with incredible force and speed, they can fire bubbles that travel 70 miles an hour, at close to 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, any prey that gets hit by these bubbles is brown bread, but they also use ‘em to tunnel burrows into solid rock, and to fend off rivals.

And these critters are loud. Loud, like 218dB, which is about the volume of a handgun (hence the name.) So loud that sonar operators have to be trained to not mistake their shots for enemy ships. Think you can shut them down by taking out their shooting claw? Wrong, friend: These bad boys will just make their remaining claw bigger while the other one regenerates. They’re so cool that Netflix made a movie where Jamie Foxx got pistol shrimp powers in five-minute bursts. I didn’t see it, but I assume the Earth was destroyed.1

Well, we’re never going to top that, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more fascinating shrimp facts to dig into. Let’s do it!

1. The phrase “shrimp on the barbie” wasn’t a thing until a 1984 TV ad, in which that Crocodile Dundee2 guy tried to lure Americans to what country? Australia

2. Mantis shrimp3 can see colors we can’t even imagine, since their ultra-powerful eyes detect wavelengths way up in what skin-burning blacklight spectrum? Ultraviolet

3. He waited on Rae Dawn Chong’s table at a Bubba Gump Shrimp in Hawaii, and she offered him a role in her film: That’s the unlikely career origin for what member of The Guardians of the Galaxy and Mouserat? Chris Pratt4

4. From 1959 to 1991, the Golden Gate Casino’s claim to fame was charging 50 cents for what very Vegas shrimp appetizer that they served in a sundae dish, not a highball glass? Shrimp Cocktail5

5. Like Nemo and his dad, Pederson’s cleaner shrimp get shelter from predators in exchange for picking parasites off of what flower-looking invertebrates? Sea anemones6

6. “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” bizarrely had Pepe the King Prawn play what major role whose original “actor” made more than the Munchkins? Toto7

7. Because “shrimp” has different definitions, the nerds at Merriam-Webster say that “jumbo shrimp” isn’t what sort of self-contradicting phrase that’s Greek for “sharp–foolish”?8 Oxymoron

8. California state senator Leland Yee and current mayor London Breed were tangled up in the 2015 trial of “Shrimp Boy” Chow,9 a gang leader in what city’s Chinatown neighborhood? San Francisco

Bonus. “How many shrimps do you have to eat? / Before you make your skin turn pink?”  That’s the question at the heart of Kero Kero Bonito’s YouTube-famous song named for what bird? Flamingo10

  1. Psych, he used them to foil the bad guys and expose an evil drug ring. It’s called Project Power, and it’s damn goofy. Check it out.
  2. Crocodile Dundee got an Oscar nod for Best Original Screenplay, but lost to Hannah and Her Sisters. A shame they didn’t have the Best Shirtless Vest category back then.
  3. Another creature on my Five Favorite Animals list. Rounding things out are whale sharks, naked mole-rats, and elephants. Better luck next time, humans!
  4. Customers at Bubba Gump call their waiters over with signs that read “Stop, Forrest, stop.” I’ll take an asskicking from Ronan the Accuser over that any day of the week.
  5. At one point, they were selling 2,000 half-dollar shrimp cocktails a day. That sounds like a food poisoning waiting to happen, but I guess you don’t go to Vegas to not gamble.
  6. Sea anemones aren’t as immobile as they seem: They can change positions, but they’re so slow you need time-lapse photography to even notice it. I think we’ve all had weekends like that.
  7. Not more than Judy Garland, as urban legend sometimes has it, but Judy did get slapped by the director and forced by the studio to lose an unhealthy amount of weight. They even encouraged her (at 16!)  to smoke dozens of cigarettes a day to keep her mind off eating. Ouch, my precious nostalgia!
  8. In Samuel Johnson’s 1755 dictionary, the definition of “elephant” included the phrase “by one blow with his trunk he will kill a camel or a horse.” That’s how you lexicographize, son!
  9. Chow wound up getting life without parole, for crimes that included murder and smuggling 50 cases of Hennessy XO. That’s like a whole week’s supply!
  10. Famous thanks to this video, which also slides neatly into the “damn goofy” category.

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