Thursday 24 June 2010

Praying Mantis

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I've always rather liked mantids or mantises or whatever the plural is meant to be. They are a type of insect, which usually means that there is a ridiculous diversity of size and shape around each species. Such is the case here. I, of course, refer to the mantids with the long, stiff thorax, the small triangular head and the large forelegs held aloft, characteristics that give a certain dignified elegence and the name 'praying mantis'.

They live in warm climates all over the world where most of them are ambush predators, green or brown colours camouflaging them amongst living or dead leaves, foliage or undergrowth. Their huge compound eyes provide excellent vision and the head is extremely mobile, swivelling almost 180 degrees to spot prey without requiring movement that may alert potential victims. When some poor creature is chosen for food, those powerful forelegs burst forth at incredible speed, spikes pin it in place as the mantis subdues its catch, typically eating it head first.

But what do they eat? Well, usually insects of various kinds, moths, crickets and such. Infamously, females will sometimes even eat males after mating, sometimes even DURING mating. Once the male has lost his head he gets even more vigorous in his attentions. Too late by then, of course. All in all, pretty disastrous as dates go. Larger mantids can also eat other things, small birds, snakes and even rodents. For me, there is something quite appalling about an animal with a backbone being eaten by one without. An insect eating something with fur and visible ears? That's really quite disgusting. But, c'est la morte.

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