10 Fun and Interesting Praying Mantis Facts for Kids

April 09, 2024 7 min read

10 Fun and Interesting Praying Mantis Facts for Kids

Step into the intriguing world of the praying mantis, a creature that has captivated the imagination of nature enthusiasts and scientists alike for centuries. With its unique appearance, extraordinary hunting techniques, and surprising behaviors, the praying mantis stands out as one of the most fascinating predators in the animal kingdom.

In this article you will learn all about the captivating world of the praying mantis, exploring its incredible adaptations and unexpected behaviors. Prepare to be astonished by this remarkable insect as we unravel the mysteries of the praying mantis together!

They Have 5 Eyes

You might think the Praying Mantis only has two eyes, but it actually has five! The two large compound eyes are used to detect movement and depth, and gives the mantis panoramic vision of its surroundings. Each compound eye contains numerous individual facets called ommatidia, which detect light and motion. This compound structure grants the mantis excellent depth perception and a wide field of view, ideal for spotting prey and potential threats.

Situated between the two compound eyes are three smaller eyes, often arranged in a triangular pattern. While not as sophisticated as the compound eyes, the ocelli are sensitive to changes in light intensity and help the mantis orient itself with respect to the sun and other light sources. They also aid in regulating the mantis's circadian rhythms and navigation.These eyes contribute to the mantis's prowess as an agile and efficient predator, allowing it to stalk, ambush, and capture its prey with remarkable accuracy!

They Can See in 3D

Stereo vision, also known as binocular vision, refers to the ability of an organism to perceive depth and three-dimensional (3D) spatial information by combining the slightly different views provided by each eye. This depth perception is essential for accurately gauging distances and spatial relationships between objects in the environment.

In the case of the praying mantis, its stereo vision is primarily facilitated by its two large compound eyes, which are positioned on opposite sides of its head. Each compound eye captures a slightly different perspective of the surrounding environment due to their lateral placement. These two overlapping visual fields provide the mantis with binocular vision, enabling it to perceive depth and distance effectively. When an object is viewed from two different angles, each eye receives a slightly different image. This difference in perspective, known as binocular disparity, allows the mantis to infer depth information. By comparing the disparities between corresponding points in the images received by each eye, the mantis can accurately determine the distance to objects in its field of view. The brain processes the information from both eyes to create a single, unified 3D representation of the environment!

They Only Have One Ear

Scientists used to believe that the praying mantis was deaf, as they could not discern any auditory structures on the mantis's body. This belief was also based the absence of behaviors typically associated with sound perception. Unlike some insects, such as crickets or grasshoppers, mantises do not produce audible sounds through vocalizations or stridulation (the rubbing together of body parts to create sound). Additionally, observations of mantises did not reveal any apparent responses to sound stimuli, further supporting the notion of their deafness.

However, David Yager, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, made a groundbreaking discovery regarding the auditory capabilities of praying mantises. In 2016, Yager and his team revealed that mantises possess a unique auditory organ located in an unexpected location: between their hind legs, in the thorax-abdomen. Essentially, the mantis has an "ear" in the middle of its body, in between it's hind legs!

They Can Turn Their Heads 180 Degrees!

The jointed neck of a praying mantis provides periscopic mobility, allowing the mantis to rotate its head and observe its surroundings with remarkable flexibility and precision. This unique anatomical feature is crucial for the mantis's hunting strategies, predator avoidance, and overall situational awareness.

The neck of a praying mantis is highly flexible and consists of a series of small, interconnected segments that allow for a wide range of motion. This articulated joint enables the mantis to rotate its head in various directions, including side-to-side, up and down, and even to twist it almost 180 degrees. 

Praying mantises are ambush predators that rely on stealth and patience to capture their prey. The ability to rotate their heads allows mantises to remain hidden while observing potential prey, waiting for the opportune moment to strike with lightning-fast precision. This periscopic mobility enhances the mantis's hunting success by enabling it to maintain visual contact with its target without revealing its position.

They Are Masters of Camouflage

Praying mantises are known for their remarkable ability to change color after they molt, a process known as physiological color change or post-molt coloration. The color change in mantises occurs due to the renewal of their exoskeleton during the molting process. Just before molting, the mantis secretes a new, soft exoskeleton underneath its old one. After shedding its old exoskeleton, the mantis emerges with a fresh, pliable new exoskeleton. The ability to change color after molting is essential for mantises to adapt to their changing environment. By adjusting their coloration to blend in with their surroundings, mantises can evade predators and ambush prey more effectively. One unique mantis species, the Orchid Mantis, has the fascinating ability to replicate the look of an orchid bloom as a form of camouflage!  

They Do Not Have Lungs

Spiracles are small openings or pores found along the sides of an insect's body, primarily on the thorax and abdomen. These openings serve as the external openings of the insect's respiratory system, allowing air to enter and exit the body. Insects, including praying mantises, lack lungs, so they rely on a system of tracheae (tubes) and spiracles to transport oxygen directly to their tissues.

raying mantises breathe through a system of tracheae, which are tubes that carry air directly to the insect's tissues. Air enters the tracheal system through the spiracles, which open and close to regulate airflow. Oxygen from the air diffuses into the tracheae and is transported to the cells, where it is used for cellular respiration.

Spiracles are essential respiratory structures in praying mantises, enabling these insects to obtain oxygen and release carbon dioxide efficiently. The regulation of spiracle openings allows mantises to adapt to varying environmental conditions and maintain optimal respiratory function, contributing to their survival in diverse habitats.

They Have Legs Designed to Capture Prey

Praying Mantises have raptorial forelegs! "Raptorial" refers to the specialized adaptations for seizing and capturing prey, commonly found in certain predatory animals such as insects, birds, and mammals. The term "raptorial" is derived from the Latin word "raptare," meaning "to seize" or "to snatch". The spiked forelegs of a mantis are perfect for snatching and grabbing prey, with their stealthy and lightning fast strikes. Mantises are capable of manipulating their forelegs with remarkable dexterity, allowing them to handle prey of various sizes and shapes. They can adjust the force and angle of their grip as needed, enabling them to subdue a wide range of potential prey items.

Whether poised to attack, feeding on prey or just at rest, the mantis will often keep both forelegs bent in front of its face, in a praying pose that gave this insect it's title!  

They Only Live for 6-12 Months

The lifespan of a mantis can vary depending on several factors, including species, size, environmental conditions, and whether they are kept as pets or living in the wild. Different species of mantises have varying lifespans. Some species, such as the European mantis (Mantis religiosa), may live for about 6 to 9 months as adults, while others, like the Chinese mantis (Tenodera sinensis), can live for up to 1 year or more. The lifespan of mantis species can also be influenced by their geographic location and habitat. Generally, larger mantis species tend to have longer lifespans compared to smaller species. Larger mantises may take longer to reach adulthood and may have a slower rate of maturation. As a result, they may live for a longer period as adults.

They Have Green “Blood”

Praying mantises, like other insects, lack traditional circulatory and respiratory systems found in vertebrates. Instead, they rely on a combination of passive diffusion and specialized structures to transport oxygen and nutrients throughout their bodies and remove waste products. Here's how praying mantises manage without circulatory and respiratory systems:

Praying mantises have a network of tiny tubes called tracheae that run throughout their bodies, delivering oxygen directly to their tissues. These tracheae open to the outside through small openings called spiracles, located along the sides of the mantis's body. Oxygen enters the tracheal system through the spiracles and diffuses through the tracheae to reach the mantis's cells. Similarly, carbon dioxide produced by cellular metabolism diffuses out of the cells and is expelled through the spiracles.

The respiratory process in mantises relies primarily on passive diffusion, where gases move from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. Oxygen diffuses into the tracheae from the surrounding air, while carbon dioxide diffuses out of the tracheae into the atmosphere. The efficiency of diffusion is enhanced by factors such as the mantis's surface area, the concentration gradient of gases, and the proximity of cells to the tracheal tubes.

While mantises lack a closed circulatory system with a network of blood vessels, they do possess an open circulatory system. In this system, hemolymph, a fluid similar to blood, circulates freely throughout the body cavity (hemocoel). Hemolymph bathes the internal organs and tissues, delivering nutrients and hormones and removing waste products. The movement of hemolymph is facilitated by muscular contractions and movements of the mantis's body.

Hemolymph in mantises contains a respiratory pigment called hemocyanin, which helps transport oxygen. Hemocyanin binds to oxygen molecules in the tracheae and releases them to the cells, similar to the role of hemoglobin in vertebrate blood. The color of hemolymph can change depending on its oxygenation state, ranging from colorless to blue-green.

Some Praying Mantises Can Fly

Some species of praying mantises have developed the ability to fly short distances, particularly if their wings are fully grown and functional. While not all mantis species are capable of flight, those with fully developed wings may utilize this ability for various purposes, including dispersal, hunting, and escaping from predators. Praying mantises possess two pairs of wings: a larger pair of forewings (tegmina) and a smaller pair of hindwings. In species capable of flight, both pairs of wings are fully developed and functional. The forewings typically serve as protective covers for the hindwings when at rest but can be rapidly deployed during flight. Like other flying insects, mantises have well-developed flight muscles attached to their wings. These muscles allow them to generate the rapid wing movements necessary for flight. While mantises are not as agile or fast as other flying insects like bees or flies, they can still achieve short bursts of flight when needed. As male mantises are usually smaller and lighter than females, they are much more likely to take sustained flights. 

Investigate the Curious Lives of Praying Mantises

Get ready to experience the unique and incredible Praying Mantis Life Cycle for yourself! Visit us today at InsectLore.com!


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