London - With its iridescent blue and green back and flame-orange lower body, the peacock mantis shrimp rivals the peacock for colour and display.

But scientists are drawn towards these extraordinary-looking creatures for another reason.

The crustaceans boast a hammer-like 4 in claw that can exert a blow with the force of 200lb (90kg) — the weight of a black bear — at 50mph on unsuspecting molluscs and crabs. It can crack aquarium glass or break a man’s finger.

Researchers at the University of California hope that by studying the mantis shrimp’s claws they may develop a tank armour material that can withstand blasts from roadside bombs and rockets.

The team has already been given a £380,000 grant from the US Air Force and has made a prototype that can withstand heavy munitions fire.

Scientist David Kisailus examined the creatures with his hands protected by several layers of rubber gloves.

“It didn’t break our fingers,” says Kisailus, “but it still hurt like hell.” - Daily Mail