At J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge, fortunate visitors may catch a glimpse of manatees, sea otters, indigo snakes, gopher tortoises, dolphins, and horseshoe crabs amid the mangroves and open water.
What most people won’t see is the unassuming pistol shrimp, which lurks in vast numbers just below the surface, but many people may hear their Rice Krispie-like crackling echoing through their canoes or other watercraft.
Though the sound may not impress at first, consider this: By snapping their oversized claws, pistol shrimp produce a bubble so powerful that when it collapses, it produces momentary heat in excess of 5,500 °C (9,932 ºF). It’s so powerful in fact, that it creates a burst of light — a form of non-chemical bioluminescence.
The shrimp do this in order to stun prey, deter predators, and possibly communicate with each other. And while they’re found nearly worldwide, Ding Darling offers a most pleasant ambience for enjoying their snap, crackle, and pop!