pistol shrimp
Super shrimp: The pistol shrimp is only 2cm long but can make a noise louder than Concorde's sonic boom.
A prawn which can make a sound louder than a jet engine has been found in British waters. Pistol shrimps - which stun their prey by snapping their claws together to create a deafening 'crack' - normally live in the sub-tropics.

Despite being less than an inch long, the creatures can emit an astonishing 218 decibels - louder than a gunshot.

The sound stuns small fish and crabs, allowing the shrimp to move in for the kill. The creatures, also known as snapping shrimps, are native to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean and have only been found swimming off the coast of Britain a handful of times this century.
pistol shrimp
© Unknown

A pair were discovered last week near the mouth of the Helford River in Cornwall by crab fisherman Tim Bailey, 56. They were brought to the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay, where staff were forced to separate them to stop them stunning each other. Curator Matt Slater, who collected the creatures from Mr Bailey, said: 'Only a handful of this type of shrimp have ever been recorded in UK waters, although their numbers do appear to be on the rise.

'I started to think they were something special while I was driving back from Falmouth. 'I kept on hearing this cracking noise from the back of the vehicle as if someone was popping bubble wrap. 'It wasn't until we unloaded the bucket that I realised the sound was coming from the shrimps snapping their claws together.'

Ben Marshall, a scientist at the aquarium, added: 'They are among the loudest marine animals. They simply snap their claw to make a loud noise, and it's 218 decibels.' He said the level of noise made by the shrimps was comparable with that produced by a sperm whale.

'That is 40 tonnes, and this is 2cm,' he added. 'The click of the claw stuns the victim for enough time for them to get on it and kill it - from tiny shrimp to anything planktonic. 'The noise is very instantaneous. It's not like a shotgun blast. It lasts literally a fraction of a second, but it's enough to stun the prey they're after.'

Douglas Herdson, the information officer at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, said that the creatures are so loud that they can be heard by sailors. 'I have heard of yachtsmen being moored in a bay and not being able to sleep because of the noise these shrimps make,' he said. He added that the species is likely to be seen in UK waters more often as sea temperatures rise.

The British pair may have been carried to the UK as larvae by a passing ship. There are around 600 species of pistol shrimp worldwide. Most dig burrows and feed off small crabs and fish.