Thursday, July 9, 2009

Praying Mantis

Praying mantises, or mantids, large predatory insects of the order Orthoptera, are so named because the spiny forelegs appear to be folded in an attitude of prayer. The uppermost leg segment (the coax), usually small in other insects, is greatly elongated, providing greater reach and allowing the next two segments, the femur and tibia, to be snapped closed against one another as an insect trap. The front portion of the thorax (prothorax), the region just behind the head, is also greatly elongated, forming a necklike structure, mantises are the only insects that can turn their heads to look directly behind them.

As the mantis moves its head to keep its prey in sight, its head stimulated special receptors that send out nerve impulses that automatically and instantly adjust the distance and angle of the mantis’s strike. In captivity the female mantis may kill and eat the male immediately after or even during mating, but this behavior is not common in the wild. Mantis eggs are laid in a frothy egg case in fall and hatch in spring.

The common praying mantis, shown grasping prey with its forelegs, is legally protected in some areas as a destroyer of insect pests.

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