The spot-tail mantis shrimp (Squilla mantis) is one of about 25 members of the genus Squilla, which despite their name are not closely related to shrimp. These crustaceans live in warm and temperate shallow waters of the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic from the Gulf of Cadiz, Spain, as far south as Angola, including islands off the African coast. Benthic animals, they dig U-shaped burrows into soft sandy mud or fine sand substrates, especially near fresh river outlets, usually at depths less than 150 m (500 feet) but they have been found up to a recorded 367 m (1204 feet).
Like other mantis shrimp, S. mantis is a nocturnal predator of small crustaceans, molluscs, polychaetes and fishes, but stomach content studies also show it to eat algae and foraminifera indicating that it is an opportunistic feeder. About 40% of S. mantis burrows contain the alpheid shrimp Athanas amazone somehow living in association (presumed to be an obligate association for A. amazone) although their relationship is not clear as the mantis shrimp eats prey items of the same size as A. amazone (Froglia and Atkinson 1998).
The spot-tail mantis shrimp grows to about 40 cm (15 inches) long, a size thought correlated only with its upper age limit, about 3 years. More typically they are seen up to 30 mm (10 inches) long. It has two characteristic brown spots at the base of its tail fan (telson). An abundant species in the Mediterranean, it is commercially fished on a small scale, especially in the Italian Adriatic Sea and is the only of the 10 Mediterranean stomatopods that has any economic importance. Caught as winter-spring by-catch in bottom trawls where night trawling is allowed, it is a successful fishery around large river mouths because it occurs in high densities, but is to date unregulated. Squilla mantis is commercialized fresh; in Italy where it is most commonly found in fish markets it is called sea-grasshopper, or cicale di mare (Maynou et al. 2004; My Italian Cuisine, 2012)
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