Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sphodromantis Viridis


figure 1.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Mantodea
Family: Mantidae
Genus: Sphodromantis
Species: S. viridis

Sphodromantis viridis, more commonly known as the African Mantis, is a popular pet. Females can reach up to 3.9 inches in length (see figure 2). The males tend to be much smaller due to sexual dimorphism. The African Mantis can be anywhere from bright green to a dull cream brown. As their name implies, they are native to Africa, especially West Africa. The species has also been introduced to Israel and Spain. Their habitat consists of dense foliage and warm weather.

Figure 2.


Figure 3. As you can see here this is a female African Mantis noted by the six segmented abdomen

Figure 4. This is a male African Mantis because of its eight segmented thorax.

The African Mantis can be identified by its size and by a white spot on their wings. They also have a yellow tint on their inner foreleg which is unique to their species. As mentioned earlier, the females tend to be larger than the males. Another way to distinguish males from females is that the males have an eight segmented abdomen compared to the females’ six segmented abdomen (see figure 3 and 4).

The African Mantis has a wide ranged diet. It can consume crickets, moths, locusts, and even baby mice. The African Mantids are aggressive in nature and hey will eat anything their size. They are ambush predators and use their raptorial legs to capture prey. These raptorial legs are spiked forelegs which can easily grasp and hold prey. The front of the thorax, the prothorax, is much more flexible than the rest of the body. The head is also flexible; it is able to turn up to 300 degrees. African Mantids have good vision and use their compound eyes to sight prey (see figure 5).
Digestion is extracellular. The food enters the mouth and passes through the gut and out the anus.

Figure 5. A closer look at the compound eye.

Mating season usually begins in autumn. It is best if the male find a female who isn’t hungry because sexual cannibalism does occur. The male will sometimes engage the female in an elaborate courtship dance in order to increase his chances of survival with a potential mate. If the male succeeds then he deposits his sperm in a special chamber in the female’s abdomen. Within a few days the female will lay 10 to 400 eggs in an ootheca (see figure 6). An ootheca is a protective shell around the eggs. The female begins by laying a foamy mass that contains her eggs. The mass hardens and protects the eggs and babies inside. However some predators are still able to find and eat the oothecas. The African Mantids life span can range anywhere from ten to twelve months.

Figure 6. The ootheca of an African Mantis


African Mantids mainly use camouflage as defense. The mantis easily blends into the foliage around it. They also blend in by moving repetitively side to side to resemble branches swaying in the wind.
If the mantis is threatened, it fans its wings out in order to appear larger (figure 7).

Figure 7. This picture is an example of the reaction of a threatened African Mantis.

The African Mantis has many predators. This includes lizards, owls, small mammals, and snakes.


Mantids are used for pest control. There are farms throughout the U.S. that buy batches of mantid nymphs in order to keep bad insects away from their crops.
Mantids are featured in many movies and there is even a Pokémon named Scyther that is modeled off of the mantis (figure 8).

Figure 8. Scyther from Pokemon


This journal article is about a photographer named Igor Siwanowicz who photographs and studies the mantis. He states that mantids are clever and can communicate by gesturing to each other (see figure 9). Siwanowicz is fascinated by mantids and has decided to release a book that is dedicated and about the mantis.

Figure 9. This is a picture taken from the journal article. It displays the 'communication' between mantids.


1 comment:

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