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Praying Mantis Print E-mail

The Mantis order consists of about 2300 species in tropical and temperate zones world-wide. The most common are the odd-looking "praying mantis", named because of its prayer-like stance - not "preying mantis" because they are predators! The name "mantis" comes from Greek for prophet or fortune teller, and the closest relatives are termites and cockroaches.

Mantises feed on living insects, like flies and aphids; larger species have been known to eat small lizards, frogs, birds and snakes, and even rodents. Most mantises ambush predators their prey, by waiting for insects to come close, then lashing out remarkably fast to catch them with their spiny front legs. Some species, however, actually pursue their prey. The mantis can rotate it's head almost 300 degrees without moving it's body. As they rely heavily on sight to hunt, they are primarily diurnal, but many species fly at night, and gather at lights. If confined, mantises are likely to cannibalize each other.

Mantises rely on camouflage to avoid predators, and catch their victims. Some species can mimic withered leaves, sticks, tree bark, blades of grass, flowers, or even stones. Species in Africa can actually molt and turn black after a brushfire to blend in with the fire-ravaged landscape.

Costa Rica possesses about 5% of the total world's biodiversity. Costa Rica's rich biodiversity extends into the insect world. There are more than 800,000 species of insects on earth. Costa Rica is home to more than 34,000 of these, while many thousands more await identification.

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Copyright © 2006 S. A. DeCaro
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