Praying mantis

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Praying Mantis
A praying mantis from India
A praying mantis from India
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Mantodea

A praying mantis, or praying mantid, is the common name for an insect of the order Mantodea. Often mistakenly spelled preying mantis (a tempting mistake, as they are notoriously predatory) they are in fact named for the typical "prayer-like" stance. The word mantis derives from the Greek word mantis for prophet or fortune teller. The preferred pluralization is mantids[1], though there is some usage of mantes or mantises.

Like all insects, a praying mantis has a head atop the body, an abdomen housing vital organs at the other end, and in between, the thorax. Mantids use their specialized forelegs to capture prey and can be found in a wide variety of colors, patterns, & shapes.


[edit] Physiology

[edit] Head

The head of the praying mantis is octangular and is very small. The eyes of the mantis bulge large and round from the sides of the head. The eyes are made even more effective by the mantis’s ability to rotate the head 90°. The eyes also change color at night.

The mouth of the praying mantis is made for chewing and biting. There is an upper and lower jaw as well as palps along the sides.

Sitting atop the head of the praying mantis are its two long antennae that are used for navigation.

The praying mantis is deaf to most sounds (those not ultrasonic) and there are no ears on the head (Yager and May).

[edit] Torso

The torso of the praying mantis, consisting of the thorax and abdomen, is much elongated in size. The thorax is very long and thin. The legs and wings connect to it.

According to Yager and May, the praying mantis has one single ear in the middle of the thorax on the underside. This single ear, which is a deep slit inside the thorax, allows it to hear ultrasonic sounds.

The rear of the torso is covered by two sets of wings for flying. These wings lie one on top of the other and fan outwards during flight.

[edit] Legs

The praying mantis has six jointed legs. The rear four legs are the main walking legs. and are longer than the front two. The front two legs are shorter and set in a "praying" position, and are lined with spines and end with sharp hooks for capturing and killing prey.

[edit] Camouflage

[edit] Senses

Praying mantids, with their huge compound eyes, can see large areas and movement extremely well. Sight is the only sense they use in hunting prey and for navigation. They are one of the few non-mammal species with true stereoscopic vision[citation needed], which provides an advantage with depth perception.

[edit] Flight

Praying mantids are not born with the ability to fly because, as nymphs, they do not have wings. However, after several molting periods, they are able to fly. Gravid females cannot fly because of the added weight of developing eggs, and the females of some species have short, stubby wings that are useless save for adding to threat displays.

[edit] Habitat

Praying mantids can be found in all parts of the world that are not snow covered for a majority of the year. Praying mantids live in areas filled with plant life because their camouflage is most effective here and other insects (prey) dwell in these surroundings as well. Praying mantids will spend most of their time in a garden, in the forest, or in another vegetated area.

[edit] Diet

Being a carnivorous insect, the praying mantis feeds primarily on other insects such as flies, butterflies, crickets, moths and spiders. However, it is not uncommon for larger mantids to consume small reptiles and even small mammals or birds.

To capture their prey, mantids use their camouflage to blend in with the surroundings and wait for the prey to be within striking distance. They then use their raptorial front legs to quickly snatch the victim and devour it alive.

[edit] Predators

[edit] Predators of the Mantis

The predators of the praying mantis are generally animals that feed on insects. These primary predators of the praying mantis are bats and larger birds. Also, spiders and insect eating snakes will feed on smaller mantids. Large wasps will sometimes attack a mantis, but the outcome of such a battle is far from assured. The predators of the praying mantis are not limited to other animals because praying mantids will eat other mantids. This cannibalistic behavior is usually during the nymph stage and during mating (Patterson). However, a mature praying mantis will not turn away from a meal of its own kind.

[edit] Defense Mechanisms

Praying mantids, when threatened, stand tall and spread their forelegs with their wings fanning out wide (Patterson). The fanning of the wings is used to make the mantis seem larger and to scare the opponent.

Since praying mantids feed during the day, they do a considerable amount of flying by night. The night, however, is when bats feed, using ultrasonic sound waves to pinpoint their prey. The frequency of these sound waves indicates the location and distance of the bat’s prey. According to Yager and May, praying mantids are able to hear these ultrasonic sounds and when the frequency begins to increase rapidly, indicating an approaching bat, mantis' will stop flying horizontally and begin a direct, high speed nose dive towards the safety of the ground. Often this descent will be preceded by an aerial loop or spin. Other times, the entire descent will consist of a downward spiral.

[edit] Endangered Status

Most North American mantids are not included among endangered species.

[edit] Pest Control

Praying mantids are not considered one of the best forms of natural control of small insects in gardens. This is because mantids are indiscriminate predators, and often feed on the small insects that are natural, and more efficient, predators of the insects that can take a heavy toll on plant life (beetles, caterpillars, etc.).

Patterson describes how gardeners will often search for ootheca and carefully move them while still connected to their holding structure and place them in the refrigerator to prevent premature hatching. The ootheca will keep the unborn nymphs alive in the refrigerator until the spring arrives and they are ready to hatch. This allows for the mantis nymphs to be born in the garden and spend their lives protecting the plants from insects that may harm the vegetation.

[edit] Lifespan

The natural lifespan of a praying mantis is from the spring through the fall of one year. In colder areas, mantids will die during the winter. In captivity, if kept correctly, and in warmer areas in the wild, mantids can live up to one full year.

[edit] Mantis as pets

Praying Mantis can make good pets. An average sized insect container, or fish tank will make a suitable home. They require branches to climb on, insects to hunt, and water to drink. They will drink sprayed water out of a bottle and eat crickets, widely available in pet stores. If fed too much, their abdomen can burst, killing the mantis. Hatchlings should ideally be fed on a diet of fruit flies.

[edit] Species

According to Patterson, the majority of the 1,800 species of praying mantids are found in Asia. About 20 of those species are found in North America and Europe. The Asian species as well as a few of the North American ones are native to their land. The others came from Asia among plants being shipped from one continent to the other.

An ant-like mantis
An ant-like mantis
European mantis devouring a Tenebrio molitor
European mantis devouring a Tenebrio molitor
  • Acanthops falcata - Venezuelan Dead Leaf mantis
  • Acanthops fuscifolia - Tropical Dead Leaf
  • Acanthops tuberculata - Tropical Dead Leaf
  • Acromantis sp. - Boxer mantis
  • Ameles decolor
Ameles decolor
Ameles decolor
  • Ameles spallanzania
  • Alalomantis muta - Cameroon mantis
  • Asiadodis squilla - Asian shield mantis
  • Blepharopsis mendica - Thistle mantis
  • Brunneria subaptera - Stick mantis
  • Brunneria borealis - Stick mantis
  • Camelomantis sondaica
  • Ceratocrania macra
  • Ceratomantis saussurii
  • Choeradodis rhombicollis - Tropical shield mantis
  • Choeradodis stalii - Tropical shield mantis
  • Cilnia humeralis
  • Creobroter meleagris - Flower mantis
  • Creobroter gemmatus - Indian flower mantis
  • Creobroter pictipennis - Indian flower mantis
  • Creobroter elongata - Flower mantis
  • Deroplatys angustata - Dead Leaf mantis
  • Deroplatys desiccata - Dead Leaf mantis
  • Deroplatys lobata - Dead Leaf mantis
  • Deroplatys truncata - Dead Leaf mantis
Dead leaf mantis
Dead leaf mantis
  • Empusa fasciata
  • Empusa pennata
  • Eremiaphila brunneri - Common desert mantis
  • Eremiaphila zetterstedti
  • Euchomenella heteroptera - Twig mantis
  • Gongylus gongylodes - Indian rose/Violin mantis
  • Gonatista grisea - Grizzled mantis
  • Heterochaeta strachani
  • Hierodula membranacea - Giant Asian mantis
  • Hierodula grandis - Giant Indian mantis
  • Hierodula patellifera - Indo-Pacific mantis
  • Hierodula parviceps - Philippine mantis
Hierodula parviceps eating a cricket
Hierodula parviceps eating a cricket
  • Holaptilon pusillulum - Jumpy mantis
  • Hoplocorypha sp.
  • Humbertiella ceylonica
  • Hymenopus coronatus - Orchid mantis
  • Idolomantis diabolica - Devil's Flower mantis
  • Idolomorpha madagascariensis
  • Ischnomantis gigas
  • Iris oratoria - Mediterranean mantis
  • Liturgusa lichenalis - Lichen mantis
  • Macromantis hyalina
  • Mantis religiosa - European mantis
  • Miomantis caffra - South African mantis
  • Miomantis paykullii - Egyptian mantis
  • Miomantis abyssinica - Egyptian mantis
  • Odontomantis sp. - Ant mantis
  • Oligonicella scudderi - Scudder's mantis
  • Orthodera novaezealandiae - New Zealand mantis
  • Otomantis sp. - Boxer mantis
  • Oxyopsis gracilis - Peruvian mantis
  • Oxyopsis peruviana - Peruvian mantis
  • Oxyothespis dumonti
  • Paramantis prasina
Paramantis prasina
Paramantis prasina
  • Parasphendale agrionina - Bud-winged mantis
  • Parasphendale affinis - African banded mantis
  • Paratoxodera cornicollis - Giant Malaysian stick mantis
  • Phyllocrania paradoxa - Ghost mantis
  • Phyllovates chlorophaea
  • Plistospilota guineensis
  • Polyspilota aeruginosa
  • Popa spurca - twig mantis
  • Pseudocreobotra ocellata - Spiny flower mantis
  • Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii - Spiny flower mantis
  • Pseudovates arizonae - Arizona unicorn mantis
  • Rhombodera basalis - Giant Malaysian shield mantis
  • Rhombodera extensicollis - Giant shield mantis
  • Rhombodera megaera - Giant shield mantis
  • Rivetina baetica - Ground mantis
  • Stagmatoptera biocellata
  • Stagmomantis californica- California mantis
  • Sphodromantis balachowskyi
  • Stagmomantis carolina - Carolina mantis
  • Stagmomantis limbata - Bordered mantis
  • Stagmomantis floridensis - Florida mantis
  • Sibylla pretiosa
  • Tamolanica tamolana
  • Tarachodes afzelii
  • Tarachodula pantherina
  • Theopropus elegans - Elegant mantis
  • Tisma freyi
  • Taumantis sigiana - Lime-green mantis
  • Tenodera australasiae
  • Tenodera angustipennis - Narrow-winged mantis
  • Tenodera aridifolia sinensis - Chinese mantis
Chinese mantis eating a bee
Chinese mantis eating a bee
  • Toxodera denticulata - Giant Malaysian stick mantis
  • Yersiniops sophronicum - Yersin's ground mantis
  • Yersiniops solitarium - Horned ground mantis
  • Zoolea lobipes

For a more detailed treatment of this insect, see Mantodea.

[edit] Praying Mantis in Popular Culture

  • Zorak - an animated mantis from the cartoon Space Ghost.
  • Manny, a character from the Disney/Pixar movie A Bug's Life is a praying mantis
  • Mantazz, a playable character in the videogame Time Killers, is a human-sized alien that greatly resembles a praying mantis.
  • In China there is a Praying Mantis Kung Fu style ( 螳螂拳) based on the movement of the Chinese Mantis, although there are Northern and Southern style but both of them have the recognisable mantis hand movement (with their long and middle fingers pointing downwards).
  • In the video game Mega Man Zero 3 one boss called Deathtantz Mantisk is based on a Praying Mantis.
  • Creators of the animated show The Simpsons have stated that character Montgomery Burns' appearance is based upon a praying mantis.
  • The show Power Rangers has three mantis based monsters: The first one in Mighty Morphin Power Rangers season one (this episode also features one of the characters, Trini Kwan, practicing Praying Mantis Kung Fu), the second one in Power Rangers in Space, and the third one is the Motor Mantis in Power Rangers: Lost Galaxy. Also, the villain Trakeena in Lost Galaxy, wore armor that was based after the mantis.
  • The show Buffy the Vampire Slayer depicts a mantis-like creature that takes human shape and entices virgin men in order to lay its eggs. During the mating ritual the head of the male is removed. Xander Harris has a close encounter with the mantis woman and the point is brought up as a joke in future episodes.
  • The Barraki Takadox from the BIONICLE story is said to resemble a Praying Mantis rather than a Mantis Shrimp
  • In the video game Metal Gear Solid, one of the main boss characters is named Psycho Mantis. He is a member of Foxhound with telepathic abilities. Despite his name, his real only correlating characteristic to the mantis is his appearance and the way his mask resembles the mantid eyes.
  • In the movie "Meet the Applegates" the Applegates are in fact human size praying mantids in disguise.
  • On the TV show Big Bad Bettleborgs, the villainess Horribelle was based after the praying mantis and had two sicle swords.
  • The video games Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic Advance 3 both include mantis-like Badniks.
  • The CGI children's cartoon Miss Spider has a mantis character as an art teacher.
  • The scifi film The Deadly Mantis features a giant praying mantis being thawed out in the arctic and leading a murderous rampage towards New York City.
  • In an episode of the anime InuYasha, the character Miroku is seduced and then attacked by a mantis-like demon disguised as a beautiful princess.
  • In Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, level 5, the hive of the mantids is a giant city of "extremely intelligent" human sized mantis creatures that plan to infest earth.
  • Kamacuras is a gigantic mantis kaiju from the Godzilla film series, first appearing in Son of Godzilla and last appearing in Godzilla: Final Wars.
  • In the show Kamen Rider Blade, Hajime Aikawa's rider form, Kamen Rider Chalice, has a mantis motif.
  • A large mechanical praying mantis is shown on the cover of book #35 of the "Goosebumps" series known as "A Shocker on Shock Street".
  • In Konjiki no Gash Bell, there is a half-man, half-praying mantis character named "Mantis Cop," a sentai like character, which Gash is a huge fan of.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Iowa State University Department of Entomology, "Praying Mantis".
  1. Walkup, Richard L. “Praying Mantis Makes Meal of a Hummer.” Bird Watcher’s Digest. 2006. Bird Watcher’s Digest. 27 October 2006.
  2. Insecta Inspecta. “Praying Mantis.” Insecta Inspecta World. 1 June 2004. Insecta Inspecta, Inc. 27 October 2006.
  3. The Big Zoo. “Praying Mantis.” The Big Zoo. 2006. Thebigzoo. 27 October 2006.
  4. Patterson, Kathleen J. “The Praying Mantis.” Conservationist 47.6 (1993): 30. Academic Search Premier. 31 October 2006.
  5. Breeding “praying mantis” in captivity. Insectstore. 14 December 2006.
  6. Yager, David, and Mike May. “Coming in on a Wing and an Ear. (Cover Story).” Natural History 102.1 (1993): 28. Academic Search Premier. 31 October 2006.

[edit] External links

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