Mantis is one of the most alien-looking animals (insects) on earth. Mantises also one of the most effective predators but how have these slow-moving weirdos managed to conquer almost every continent on earth their main weapon is the element of a surprise these are the mantises.
Mantises are a diverse order of insects with 2,400 species. They come in very huge varieties of sizes and shapes. Their closest relatives are the cockroaches and like their cousins. Mantises are found all over the world in tropical and temperate climates. Their success comes from a simple hunting strategy wait for prey to get within striking range and then impale them with their spiked limbs to do this effectively.
They have three crucial adaptations the first one is their eyes. Mantises have some of the best vision among all invertebrates. Their compound eyes are made of thousands of hexagonal photoreceptor clusters called ommatidia. Large species can have over 10,000 ommatidia Iijima titia creates a very tiny image like a pixel on a computer screen their brains then combine all the pixels to make up a full image.
Mantis pseudo pupils and ommatidia
Mantises seem to always be staring at you with their tiny baby pupils and they are staring at you but their pupils have nothing to do with it in fact the black dots on their eyes are not even pupils they’re called pseudo pupils and they’re the ommatidia that absorb the light coming head-on what makes their vision superior to almost all invertebrates is their 3d vision just like in humans.
Their two eyes create slightly different images and their brains put them together to create depth perception scientists found this out by putting tiny 3d glasses on them and running the same tests they use to test depth perception in humans. Mantises were able to pick up changes in depth that would be imperceptible to us this is how they know exactly when to strike to catch their prey.
Anatomy of Mantis
Mantis vision is so simple it’s so accurate that engineers are studying their eyes to build 3d cameras the second tool in their arsenal is their spiked lens may be the most iconic part of the mantas Anatomy is their folded four limbs, they give the Mantis their common name praying mantis. The most common mantis species is also known as mantis religiosa the religious mantis but it is their prey who should be praying when a mantis grasps it spray it impales it with sharp spikes on its femur and tibia for more the prey struggles.
The deeper the spikes penetrate once the prey has been secured they begin to eat they don’t even need to kill it first they’ll just eat it alive that’s one way to eat your food while it’s still fresh this strategy helps them catch anything from small insects to tarantulas. There have even been reports of mantises catching birds and fish so why are so many animals getting that close to such a deadly predator the answer is their third adaptation mimicry.
Types of Mantises
Thousands of mantises have evolved to look like objects in their environment this serves the dual purpose of hiding from their predators and prey some look like vegetation.
There are dead leaf mantises that look like natural debris the stick mantises look like twigs leaf mantises resemble fresh leaves bark mantises blend in with the trees.
Ghost mantises look like a bouquet of collard greens they even rock from side to side to imitate leaves swaying in the wind you could almost have a whole tree made out of mantises.
You wouldn’t even know it the most beautiful mantises in the world are the flower mantises particularly the orchid mantis these mantises look like orchid flowers and attract insects looking for a lick of pollen this is called aggressive mimicry and the results can be stunning.
Equally effective are the ant mantises unlike mantises ants have chemical defenses and taste pretty bad which makes them unappealing to predators young ant mantises mimic ants to deter predators though as they grow they look less and less like ants and more like regular medicines when hiding doesn’t work they go on the offensive when threatened mantises open their forelimbs to appear larger some fan their wings.
Several species have patterns or shapes to scare away predators they’re famously brave and are known to stand up to dogs and cats hundreds of times larger than the first blow by the praying mantis lightning-fast but it looks pretty surprised coming in again its disoriented low very nice looked like a right hook.
Now the praying mantis just sort of fades within fading peace fainting and a couple of swings buddies he’s done the damage in now Friday trying desperately to find his adversary he’s completely very difficult and the bell ends around they have a reputation for being cannibalistic but that’s just bad science scientists observed that in lab conditions female mantises sometimes ate their male counterparts what they fail to mention was that they had been starved for days so sometimes.
They do eat their mates but only when necessary for survival one of the coolest mantis breeding behaviors is found in the Brunner’s stick mantis they’re independent girls who don’t need no man to in fact no males of that species have ever been found and they’re thought to reproduce asexually vision is one of the greatest tools of the Mantis but at night.
They have to rely on their other senses some mantises can hear with their belly some species such as the Budwig mantis can detect high-frequency noises using specialized organs in their abdomen this helps them detect bats. If they’re on a tree in a bat approach. They jump down to the relative safety of the ground one of the many predators that mantises might encounter.