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Mantodea (or mantises) is an order of insects that contains approximately 2,200 species in 15 families worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats. Most of the species are in the family Mantidae. Historically, the term mantid was used to refer to any member of the order because for most of the past century, only one family was recognized within the order; technically, however, the term only refers to this one family, meaning the species in the other 14 recently established families are not mantids, by definition (i.e., they are empusids, or hymenopodids, etc.), and the term "mantises" should be used when referring to the entire order.

A colloquial name for the order is "praying mantises", because of the typical "prayer-like" stance, although the term is often misspelled as "preying mantis" since mantises are predatory. In Europe, the name "praying mantis" refers to Mantis religiosa. The closest relatives of mantises are the orders Isoptera (termites) and Blattodea (cockroaches), and these three groups together are sometimes ranked as an order rather than a superorder. They are sometimes confused with phasmids (stick/leaf insects) and other elongated insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.

Praying Mantis
Tenodera sinensis 2 Luc Viatour
Mantis devouring its Prey.

Range

Throughout the world in tropical and temperate places.

Diet

Mostly insects but will eat anything it can kill.

Weapons and Traits

Slashing Forearms, as a lightning fast strike, is a master of disguse.

Battle Status

On hold will compete against the Centipede.

Mantises are exclusively predatory. Insects form the primary diet, but larger species have been known to prey on small scorpions, lizards, frogs, birds, snakes, fish, and even rodents; they will prey upon any species small enough to successfully capture and devour. Most species of mantis are known to engage in cannibalism. The majority of mantises are ambush predators, waiting for prey to stray too near. The mantis then lashes out at remarkable speed. Some ground and bark species, however, pursue their prey. Prey items are caught and held securely with grasping, spiked forelegs.

Generally, mantises protect themselves by camouflage and concealment. When directly threatened, many mantis species stand tall and spread their forelegs, with their wings fanning out wide. The fanning of the wings makes the mantis seem larger and more threatening, with some species having bright colors and patterns on their hind wings and inner surfaces of their front legs for this purpose. If harassment persists, a mantis may strike with its forelegs and attempt to pinch or bite. As part of the threat display, some species also may produce a hissing sound by expelling air from the abdominal spiracles. When flying at night, at least some mantises are able to detect the echolocation sounds produced by bats, and when the frequency begins to increase rapidly, indicating an approaching bat, they will stop flying horizontally and begin a descending spiral toward the safety of the ground, often preceded by an aerial loop or spin.

Mantises, like stick insects, show rocking behaviour in which the insect makes rhythmic, repetitive side-to-side movements. Functions proposed for this behaviour include the enhancement of crypsis by means of the resemblance to vegetation moving in the wind. However, the repetitive swaying movements may be most important in allowing the insects to discriminate objects from the background by their relative movement, a visual mechanism typical of animals with simpler sight systems. Rocking movements by these generally sedentary insects may replace flying or running as a source of relative motion of objects in the visual field.

Mantises are camouflaged, and most species make use of protective coloration to blend in with the foliage or substrate, both to avoid predators themselves, and to better snare their prey. Various species have evolved to not only blend with the foliage, but to mimic it, appearing as either living or withered leaves, sticks, tree bark, blades of grass, flowers, or even stones. Some species in Africa and Australia are able to turn black after a molt following a fire in the region to blend in with the fire ravaged landscape (a type of adaptive melanism referred to as fire melanism). While mantises can bite, they have no venom. They can also slash captors with their raptorial legs (which is often preceded by a threat display wherein the mantis will rear back and spread its front legs and wings (if present), often revealing vivid colors and/or eyespots to startle a predator). Mantises are without chemical protection; many large insectivores will eat a mantis, including Scops owls, shrikes, bullfrogs, chameleons, and milk snakes.

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