Scientists recently announced the discovery of 19 new species of praying mantis — nearly tripling the number of known species of bark mantises — and they appear to have some rather intelligent behaviors.
The mantises were found in Central and South American tropical rain forests and among museum collections. The findings were extensive enough that the genus Liturgusa was revised by Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, who described the new species in the journal ZooKeys.
“Many of these groups have never been studied other than by the scientists that originally described some of the species, which in some cases is more than 100 years ago. This is exciting because enormous potential exists for advancing our understanding of praying mantis diversity just by looking within our existing museum collections and conducting a few field expeditions,” Svenson said.
The scientist described these neotropical bark mantises as “incredibly fast runners that live on the trunks and branches of trees,” which is unusual compared to other species that are “slow and methodical hunters.”
Svenson pointed out that these mantises were even more camouflaged than other species in their mimicry of bark, moss and lichens. They use their camouflage to hide but are also proactive at avoiding predators all together, running away from lizards before they’re spotted.
“This is an amazing behavior for an insect because it shows that they are not only relying on camouflage like most insects but are constantly monitoring their environment and taking action to run and hide,” Svenson said. “In addition, some species leap off the tree trunk to avoid capture and play dead after fluttering down to the forest floor since none of the species are strong fliers.”
As predators, the bark mantis pursue prey as opposed to ambushing them.
And in case you’re wondering, these species of bark mantises do not appear to exhibit cannibalism that many would erroneously attribute to all praying-mantis kind.