Asian Ant Mantis
Odontomantis planiceps (de Haan, 1842)
Nymph of the Asian Ant Mantis. (Image by: Tiffany Lum)
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Praying mantids are hemimetabolous insects, and undergo three main life stages: egg, nymphs, adults. With each moult as a nymph, the individuals gradually develop features that make them look more like adults. This is in contrast to holometabolous insects that have four life stages, where the larvae moults as it grows but does not change much in morphology.
Comparison of holometabolous life cycle against hemimetabolous life cycle. (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
Similar to cockroaches, praying mantids lay their individual eggs in egg cases termed as ootheca. Each ootheca is a huge investment by a single female because she invests in multiple offspring in one sitting (usually ranges from about ten to over hundreds). The ootheca functions as a shield from environmental stressors such as temperature fluctuations and water damage
Hatching process in Hymenopus coronatus. Obtained from YouTube under Fair Use guidelines.
Although juvenile morphology is extremely important, it has been neglected in a lot of studies. Many mantids look like ants during early nymphal stages. Juveniles are also carnivorous and cannibalistic, as they prey on other arthropods and even their own kind. Hence, they do have the same ecological significance as adults and deserve just as much attention in research that adults do.
But there are also some early instars that don't mimic ants. Featuring nymphs of: Tropidomantis sp. (upper left), Leptomantella sp. (upper middle), Hierodula sp. (lower left & right), Deroplatys sp. (lower right). (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
The number of moults taken to reach adulthood differs greatly between species, ranging from 5 to more than 10 (personal observation). The lifespan of adults also differ greatly between species. However, females tend to have longer lifespans than males in most species, but there are a number of exceptions
. Praying mantids also differ greatly in size (from less than 1cm as adults to 12cm) and not all species have wings that extend to the tip of their abdomen. Adult females are also able to store sperm from a single mating to fertilise multiple oothecae. Contrary to popular belief, sexual cannibalism does not occur all the time (personal observations).
Most praying mantids undergo obligate sexual reproduction, in which they have to mate to produce offspring. However, there are a few species that are known to be strictly parthenogenic such as Brunneria borealis, where the adult females do not need to mate and are able to produce 'asexually'. Some individuals are also facultatively parthenogenic, as they can engage in both sexual and 'asexual' reproduction.
Life Cycle of Odontomantis planiceps
Just like all other praying mantids, O. planiceps has 3 life stages (egg, nymphs & adults). This species strictly undergoes sexual reproduction to produce fertile ootheca and offspring.
4 stages in the life cycle of O. planiceps . (Image by: Tiffany Lum)
In O. planiceps, the external dorsal walls of ootheca were white and foamy upon formation, but gradually developed into a hue of mustard yellow, with a coarse, scaly surface. They are formed from proximal to distal ends. The emergence area is where the nymphs will hatch from the ootheca. Between 5 to 30 individuals emerge from a typical ootheca (personal observation).
Labelled images of an O. planiceps ootheca. (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
How this species managed to get the common name is because of the uncanny ant mimicry that juveniles adopt
Odontomantis planiceps nymphs could possibly mimic Camponotus sp. of ants. (Image by: Tiffany Lum)
Adults were generally green with either brown or reddish-brown pigmentation on the wings. Adults of O. planiceps have fully functional wings that extend to the tip of the abdomen, similar to most mantids. Males are highly mobile and quick to fly. Although capable of flight, the females rarely fly due to their gravid/enlarged abdomen. This species exhibits sexual size dimorphism, in which females are larger than males (approximately 1.4cm for males and 2.0cm for females).
Female (left) and male (right) pinned specimens. (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
Interactions of Praying Mantids
With prey (Diets of mantids)
Mantids are generally stalking or ambush predators, and are only known to eat live prey. Some aggressive individuals have been known to take down insects as large as them, which includes their mates, lizards, fishes, and small birds
Various videos of praying mantids catching prey items using their raptorial forelegs. (Videos by: Tiffany Lum)
With predators (Mantids as food)
Mantids have a single ear located at the ventral metathorax
Fluffy being fed with an adult mantid. (Permission pending)
With parasites (Mantids as victims)
Horsehair worms are one of the most visible parasites that people often associate with mantids, most likely due to the gruesomeness of its emergence. However, they are not known to be common in Singapore (personal observation). The worms are parasitic nematomorphs that have a free living stage, intermediate host stage, and the intermediate hosts are consumed by mantids which end up being the final host that gets killed upon emergence of the parasite
Obtained from YouTube under Fair Use guidelines
Tachinid flies have been recorded to lay their eggs on juvenile mantids and the larvae then boring into the hosts’ body
Tachinid fly that emerged. (Image by: Tiffany Lum)
Chalcid wasps have been known to parasitise ootheca of mantids too. These wasps oviposit into the egg chambers of ootheca, the eggs of the wasp hatch into larvae that feed on the mantid's eggs, and wasp offspring emerge from small holes from the ootheca
Podagrion sp. that emerged from a Tropidomantis sp.ootheca. (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
With humans (Mantids in pet trade)
Praying mantids are commonly kept as pets in other countries and are even sold in pet shops. These countries are often in temperate regions only. Pet shops tend to stock a wide variety of arthropods, which includes both pet insects and feeder insects, making mantid rearing a breeze. However, such privileges and access to a wide variety of feeder insects are not available in Singapore, making mantid rearing here difficult.
Mantids are known to be highly susceptible to inbreeding effects, and cultures of similar genetic lines usually do not persist past the 3rd generation. Hence, it is common practice among breeders to trade individuals or capture a few individuals from the wild to outbreed the existing cultures.
For O. planiceps
Feeding behaviour of O. planiceps individuals are similar to most other mantids as described above. Owing to the lack of research on this particular species, only speculations can be made about the parasitism of these individuals
Mantis, mantises, mantid, mantids?
There is a fine line between the correct and incorrect usage of these words. To make things more confusing than it already is, Mantis is a genus
Another common occurence is calling them 'preying mantises', which is understandable because they indeed do prey on other living things. However, 'praying' is more widely accepted and prevalent in literature use, due to the posture assumed by all individuals in the order Mantodea.
The genus name is a combination of the prefix Odonto- (from Greek word odous, meaning “tooth”) and Mantis, while the species planiceps is derived from a combination of Latin words - planus (meaning “flat”) and ceps (meaning “head”).
Where to find O. planiceps
These mantids seem to be able to thrive in highly disturbed environments and also in conserved areas. They can be considered as one of the more urban species, which are more mobile and can be found in areas with very little vegetation. Plant-associations have also not been observed in this species. Being diurnal, this species tends to be easier to locate in the day.
Map of Singapore, taken from iNaturalist (Permission granted). Red markers indicate the location of O. planiceps sightings reported by iNaturalist users, purple markers indicate locations that O. planiceps were personally observed. (Image from: iNaturalist, edited by: Tiffany Lum)
Comparison to other local mantids
Being a biodiversity hotspot, it is expected that Singapore is home to a number of other small mantids too. However, O. planiceps can easily be differentiated from them based on the pigments on the whole body, and also the shape of the head.
Acromantis sp. (left), Amantis sp. (center) & Tropidomantis sp. (right) are all common small mantids in Singapore. (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
Praying mantises of the Hymenopodidae family include fascinating camouflages to blend with vegetation and disguise body profiles. Some species even exhibit variously sized cuticular leg expansions appearing as lobes that resemble foliage
Creobroter sp. (left), and Hymenopus coronatus (center and right). (Images by: Tiffany Lum)
Parsimonious trees have shown fairly strong support in the evolutionary history of Odontomantis in relation to other closely related taxa. Strict consensus cladograms obtained from the trees were well supported by morphological characters. This includes traits such as secondary elongation of female wings (Node 75), number of cercomeres (Node 73), and postero-ventral fore tibial spines being laid down (Node 77). However, there has been no studies on the species level phylogeny.
From unpublished data.
Sometimes, different names are assigned to the same species, especially when a species that has already been described earlier was described again. The names that come after the initial naming and descriptions are considered as junior synonyms and should not be used in biology.
As opposed to information stated on Mantodea Species File Online
, personal communication with curators from Natural History Museum of Geneva revealed that the female specimen has been transferred to RMNH Leiden (Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden). The syntype for O. javana (female) (which has been classified as a synonym of planiceps) and male holotype filed under O. planiceps are currently stored in RMNH Leiden.
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This page was authored by Lum Qian Hua Tiffany
Last curated 9 Dec 2018