From extreme camouflage to sexual cannibalism, these pious-looking carnivores are as exquisite as they are fearsome. Named for their prominent front legs that fold together in a supine gesture suggesting an act of devotion, the praying mantis comes off as serene and soulful. You might think of them as docile things, moving about slowly, nibbling on orchids … but oh how looks deceive.
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The truth is, Mantis religiosa is an ambush predator; a carnivore with martial arts moves and a taste for live flesh. But more than that, they are fascinating creatures that have mastered their place in the natural world. They have great vision Given the look of those peepers, is it any surprise that they have stereo vision?
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They can see in 3-D and their eyes each have a fovea — a concentrated area that allows them to focus and track with acuity. Aside from those two large compound eyes, they also have three spare simple eyes located in between. They are agile like cats To the surprise of scientists filming them, mantises have been found to jump with extreme precision, contorting their body midair to land on a precarious and specific target.
Watch the video below; athletic, right? In addition, they have spikes on their legs to skewer and pin the victims into place.
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They are masters of disguise Praying mantises are supremely gifted when it comes to camouflage. They come in the form of leaves and sticks and branches, like many insects, but also take it a bit further. Some mantises molt at the end of a dry season to become black, conveniently aligning themselves with the brush fires that leave a blackened landscape. The flower mantises are crazy; some wildly ornate, others looking so convincing that unsuspecting insects come to collect nectar from them … and become dinner in the meantime.
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After two centuries of binomial nomenclature, scientists are nowhere close to running out of things to document. They're not a homogenous crowd. George Milstein believed that all plants needed to grow was water, sunlight, nutrients, and a swinging-Sixties soundtrack. Subscribe to our newsletter and get our latest, sent right to your inbox. Subscribe Thanks for subscribing! Want a Free Book? Sign up for our daily newsletter and enter to win a copy of our book, Atlas Obscura: They used to be in a different order. Historically, at times, people would use the order Dictyopera to put roaches and mantids together.
Praying Mantis: Learn about the giant insect predator.
So, basically, you can think of termites as social roaches and praying mantises as predatory roaches. The spines on a praying mantis' arms helps them catch their prey. In fact, the arms of praying mantises are deadly weapons called raptorial forelegs. The mantids attack their prey by suddenly elongating and jutting out their folded-up forelegs, which are actually fairly long segments.
Spines on these predatory forelegs help them hold onto their victims. Mantids are one of a few groups of insects that have forelegs that are especially adapted for capturing prey, explained Abbott. Rather than just letting them dangle, mantids fold them up in a way that gives the impression of a prayerful pose, which is, of course, how they got their name.
Having sex for a male is a risky game with the chance he may lose his head. One study concluded that females may decapitate males about 15 percent of the time when they mate. One of the things he said that helps to explain this type of behavior from an evolutionary perspective is that being eaten as a result of having sex is an investment on the part of the male.
Thus, it is advantageous in that sense for the male to lose his life because by doing that he is providing a nutritional resource that gives those eggs — and thus his genes — a better chance of survival. Abbott remembers a Trivial Pursuit question decades ago that he still chuckles about … what is the only insect that has a single ear?
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The answer, of course, is the praying mantis. Normally insects have ears on each side of the thorax, said Abbott.