Mantis memoir: A master predator

Bent posture of the forelegs earned the mantis a prefix; praying. They pray for prey

August 12, 2022, 11:10 am

Last modified: August 12, 2022, 11:28 am

Some species of mantises resemble flowers, with just one exception — they hunt. Photo: Collected

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Some species of mantises resemble flowers, with just one exception — they hunt.  Photo: Collected

Some species of mantises resemble flowers, with just one exception — they hunt. Photo: Collected

Throughout the ages the mantis was seen as magical, holy, or demonic. The mantis, Greek for prophet Grecians, is a slender insect with a unique pair of front legs which gives it the look of a person in prayer.

Hold right it there! Don’t cringe just because it’s an insect. With formidable hunting prowess and mythical lifestyle, this six-legged critter was fabled throughout history.

What makes a mantis?

Well, there is a mantis in the movie Kung Fu Panda. But, what makes up a mantis in nature? Let’s start with its attributes. This stealth package has a head which can rotate 180 degrees, five eyes, six legs, and a long chest (almost like the neck of a giraffe). The rest of the mantis is its abdomen, a large bell-shaped one. Mantis are winged, but they don’t fly very often.

Photo: Collected

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Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

Snare and snag

The legs are what makes the mantis a mantis. Studded with downward curved spikes, the front pair is used to snare and snag. To reflex faster than a blink, these raptorial legs are synced with their long antennae and other sensors.

How many are there?

There are 2400 different species of the mantis. Most come from the Tropics. From the Americas to Africa, Asia to Oceania, they persist. The rare species live in Brazil and Indonesia.

Mantises are masters of camouflage. Photo: Collected

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Mantises are masters of camouflage.  Photo: Collected

Mantises are masters of camouflage. Photo: Collected

Mantises are fast in close striking distances. To get close to their prey, they have patience and a lot of it. They sit and wait, but they also need a good enough disguise for shrouding their intent, to hide their not-easy-to-hide claws. So, they also mastered camouflage.

Mantis prefers to blend with the background. The species which lives among leaves takes on a green colour. Some look like leaf litter. They know how a leaf or twig may rustle in a gentle breeze. In the same manner, they perform slow dances as if inebriated. Then, there are some which live on orchids. Evolution has made them to resemble a flower, with just one exception—this doppelgänger hunts.

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