to a large, much elongated, slow-moving insect with fore legs fitted for seizing and holding insect prey. The name comes from the praying like position in which the insect holds its long, jointed front legs while at rest or waiting for prey. The three common species of mantids in North America are the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis), and the Carolina mantis (Stagmomantis carolina). There are many ways to distinguish between these three species. One is by size. The Chinese mantis is the largest of the three, which reaches about three to five inches. The European mantis is a little smaller, since it is about 3 inches long. The Carolina mantis is the smallest of the three since it is about less than 3 inches long. Another way to distinguish between these species is by color. The Chinese mantis is mostly light brown with dull green trim around its wings (Mantis UK). The European mantis is more consistently bright green in color. The Carolina mantis is a dusky brown or gray color. The European mantis is also distinguished as the only of three species that bears a black-ringed spot beneath its fore coxae (The first segment of the leg of an insect or other arthropod, joining the leg to the body). The Carolina mantis is one of 20 mantid species native to North America. The European mantis is said to have first been brought to Rochester New York in 1899 on a shipment of nursery plants. The Chinese mantis arrived in 1895, from China, on nursery stock sent to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Mantid has a unique anatomy. They have a triangular head with large compound eyes, two long, thin antennae, and a collection of sharp mouth parts designed for devouring live prey. Because of its compound eye, the mantid's eyesight is very good. However, the sharpest vision is located in the compound eye's center so the mantis must rotate its head and look directly at an object for optimum viewing. Fortunately, the mantis can also rotate its head 180 degrees to see prey or approaching threats (Earth’s Birthday). The mantid's eyes are very sensitive to light, changing from light green or tan in bright light, to dark brown in the dark. The neck helps gives the mantis its distinctive appearance. The prothorax is also flexible, turning and bending easily which aids in its locating and seizing of prey. Two long, "raptorial" front legs that are adapted to seize and hold prey. Their legs have three parts to them. The lower part of the legs have sharp spines to firmly grasp the prey. These spines fold up into matching grooves in the upper femur. There are four other legs in a mantid. These thin legs are designed for climbing and movement. These legs regenerate if broken or lost, but only during the molting process, but unfortunately limbs that regenerate are often smaller than the others. Since a full grown adult no longer molts, he or she cannot replace lost limbs. The front "raptorial" legs do not regenerate and if a mantis loses one of them it will not survive.
Sixty percent of mantid species have an ultrasonic ear on their metathorax (The hindmost of the three divisions of the thorax of an insect, bearing the third pair of legs and the second pair of wings). These ultrasonic ears are about one millimeter long with two eardrums located in it. This ear can listen to the frequencies of 25 to 60 kilohertz. (Yager lab Projects) The mantis primarily uses its ultrasonic ear while in flight. When a relatively slow flying mantis sense a bat's ultrasonic echo at close range, it curls its abdomen upwards and thrusts it legs outward creating drag and resulting in a sudden aerial "stall". The mantid in-flight maneuver creates an inherently unpredictable flight pattern-sometimes looping up and around, banking left or right, or a sudden spiral towards the ground. This is usually effective for avoiding a hungry bat's attack
The female mantids have six segments while the male mantids have eight segments...
References: Cooperation, Microsoft "Praying Mantis." Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Standard 2004. CD-ROM. 2004.
Hickman, Cleveland, (1995). Animal diversity. Boston: WCB McGraw-Hill.
Moment, Gairdner, (1967)
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