SEA Days: Small Animal, Big Appetite

Every month, the third Saturday is a special day at Birch Aquarium: SEA Days!

As the tagline suggests, SEA Days are always full of  “Science, Exploration and Adventure.” Visitors and members can meet a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego scientist or other local researcher and get hands-on with science, participate in activity stations, and get creative with a thematic craft.

Name: Maya deVries

Hometown: Berkeley, CA

Schooling Background:

B.S. UC Davis, Evolution and Ecology Major, English Minor.

Ph.D. UC Berkeley, Integrative Biology

1 word to describe a characteristic a scientist must have: Excitement

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Dr. deVries studies how the prey of the Mantis Shrimp contributed to the evolution of the Mantis Shrimp strike.

Why are mantis shrimp so important? 

Mantis shrimp are important because they are “the best” at so many things. They strike with one of the fastest, most powerful movements ever reported in the animal kingdom. They also have the most complex visual system in the animal kingdom. By studying these impressive animals we can learn a lot about the biomechanics of movement, and we can also learn about the evolution of vision in animals. Not to mention, these animals are vicious predators, and learning about them can also reveal much about the food webs in which they live.

How did you decide to work with this particular organism? 

In college, I became fascinated by all of the amazing life forms seen on Earth and was deeply curious about how and why they would evolve. Not surprisingly, I was drawn to the fast and powerful strike of the mantis shrimp. I therefore decided to examine how this amazing strike relates to mantis shrimp prey to try to understand how feeding and diet could have contributed to the evolution of the strike.

What is one surprising thing that people may not know about mantis shrimp?

There are actually over 500 species of mantis shrimp, and they are found in tropical and subtropical marine environments worldwide.

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Dr. Maya deVries

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Scripps Institution of Oceanography UC San Diego