Curator Discovers 19 New Bark Praying Mantis Species
Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology, has discovered 19 new species of praying mantis. The new species of bark mantises were discovered in tropical forests and also found among existing museum collections.
Svenson collected the insects from eight countries in Central and South America, as well as gathered hundreds of specimens from 25 international museums in North America, South America and Europe. Many of the newly described species are known only from a few specimens collected before 1950 from locations that are now heavily impacted by agriculture or development.
This group, the Neotropical bark mantises, are incredibly fast runners that live on the trunks and branches of trees,” said Svenson. “This violates the common perception of praying mantises being slow and methodical hunters.
Like most praying mantises, they are highly camouflage. However, this group is flattened in appearance and is very difficult to locate because of their adept mimicry of bark, moss and lichen. They often evade discovery by running to the opposite side of the tree before being noticed, an escape tactic also seen in many tree dwelling lizards.
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,” said Svenson. “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.
The discovery of these 19 new species triples the diversity of the group that scientists thought had only a few species with broad geographical ranges.
- Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology, discovered and described 19 new species of praying mantis from Central and South America. The research is published in the journal ZooKeys. © Cleveland Museum of Natural History
- Liturgusa algorei, a new species of praying mantis discovered by Dr. Gavin Svenson, is named for former United States Vice President Al Gore. This male specimen was captured in a dense rain forest along the Amazon River in northern Peru. © Gavin Svenson, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
- Illustrations of the male and female of a new species, Liturgusa fossetti, discovered by Dr. Gavin Svenson and named for the late Stephen Fossett for his dedication to exploration. Illustration by Joshua Maxwell © Gavin Svenson, Cleveland Museum of Natural History
- Liturgusa krattorum, a new species of praying mantis discovered by Dr. Gavin Svenson, is named for Martin and Chris Kratt of the television show Wild Kratts. This female specimen was captured in dense rain forest along the Amazon River in northern Peru. © Gavin Svenson, Cleveland Museum of Natural H