Let's create a creature with the ability to create a loud boom with only its body. We'll start with a terrestrial predator, that gives us a good reason as to why it needs to do this. It uses the thunderclap it creates to stun or, in the cases of animals with especially powerful hearing, incapacitate its prey or rivals. We'll also say that this creature resides on earth or a planet identical to it (maybe no humans). The creature will be roughly the size of a rhino. Now that we have a good place to start, let's do some research!

First up, the click beetle. Its Wikipedia page states:

A spine on the prosternum can be snapped into a corresponding notch on the mesosternum, producing a violent "click" that can bounce the beetle into the air.

Alright, that's a good possibility. Our creature can snap two special plates together to create the "thunderclap". But it would probably end up sounding more like a massive crack than anything. Or, perhaps the "thunderclap" isn't a direct result of two plates snapping together. What if our creature had two special plates on its back. One is firmly attached to the upper spine while the other is help on by powerful muscle and sinew. The second plate will have a protrusion perfect for creating that BOOM when it gets up to the right speed. How will it do this? By clicking the loose plate into the fixed plate and then flexing all those powerful muscles to build up massive amounts of potential energy in the plate. Then, the plate releases at speeds fast enough for the protrusion to break the sound barrier. It's an interesting idea, but let's look at another possibility.

Up next, Apatosaurus, This wonderful video demonstrates that apatosaurus might have been able to break the sound barrier with their tails. That's pretty amazing, but could a whip-like structure work on our predator? Let's speculate. Perhaps this tail isn't a tail at all, rather, it might be a long structure made of sinew and muscle near the base. We'll also say that this structure has bone near the base for the muscle to attach to. So now we have a creature with a whip made of sinew, muscle, and some bone attached somewhere on its body.

But now for the real question part of this post: How plausible are these ideas? Could this creature have sonic speed plates or flesh whips?

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    $\begingroup$ A mighty mantis shrimp once broke a glass tank and lay waste to many finned guards but my mom managed to subdue it and exile the rebel into a time vortex... $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    May 18, 2019 at 4:29

2 Answers 2


The real world examples you give are fantastic examples of how such a mechanism can work on the defensive aspect: the beetle is projected in the air with a BOOM, and the apatosaurus can scare off an enemy with its whip tail.

But you want this mechanism on a predator.

Well, if you are on the defensive side, you have to live with the possibility that the attacker gets close to you, therefore the fact that your defense system is short ranged is not a problem.

But if you are a predator and your chances of a meal depend on getting close enough to a potential victim, then you might have some problems.

Already getting close is challenging (ask felidae and canidae), therefore once you are close enough to launch an attack, you want to be sure it succeeds: that's why the big cats go for the throat (preventing suffocation or disarticulation of the neck has not yet been solved by natural selection) or for a more pragmatic disembowelment.

And while snapping can project small creatures in the air, for bigger sizes you might have more problems.

Also keep in mind that, due to the difference in acoustic impedance, you will be transferring very few energy into the sonic wave, and most of it into your own body: this is why the only predator I am aware of using "finger snaps" as offensive mechanism is a crab living under water.

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    $\begingroup$ As well as the pistol shrimp, it has been suggested that sperm whales can also stun prey (and outright kill smaller creatures) with focussed sonar. Also doen underwater, of course. $\endgroup$ May 18, 2019 at 10:46

The plates click and tail whip produce a shockwave in all directions, a great defensive mechanism, but rather wasteful for a predator.

A predator would want to direct all that energy at it's target for most damage and range.

I propose some form of air pressure based shock tube.

enter image description here

Put simply, it consists of a closed tube divided into two sections, one with high air pressure, another with low air pressure. By opening or breaking the divider between the two sections a directional shock wave is created and forced down the tube. Although the wave will disperse in a shot gun like manner at the end of the tube.

A great example of this on a small scale is shown here:


Your animal is going to need a few things to be able to this. A straight tube like cavity. A one way air valve at one end which air can be forced into. Some form of muscle controlled diaphragm in the middle of the tube and opening flap at the other end that is opened by the force of the shock wave as opposed to being controlled by muscles, otherwise all you'll have is an air cannon.

I envisage all of this will be linked to its respiratory and nasal system.

I haven't done the maths, but unless your animal is only taking out small prey, it'll need a larger tube than something like an elephants trunk, meaning that the tube will start in it's torso and limit any actual aiming of the wave to directly in front of it. Also, this animal will be a lot more hollow than a rhino.

Possible additions could include a heating or restricting mechanism for the compressed air section, to really jack that air pressure up.


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