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College Student Discovers New “Bush Tiger” African Praying Mantis Species
Cleveland, Ohio . . .
An American college student has discovered a new species of praying mantis from Rwanda, Africa. Riley Tedrow, a student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, discovered the new species of praying mantis in the mountainous Nyungwe Forest National Park. Tedrow was part of a research team led by Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct professor at the university. Tedrow was lead author on research describing the new species published today in the open access journal ZooKeys.
The new praying mantis species is named Dystacta tigrifrutex
, which means “bush tiger mantis.” It is named for the female, whose features indicate that she hunts prey only on the ground and in the forest undergrowth. The name was inspired by the female’s hunting methods, which are similar to a tiger, a fierce predator and the world’s largest cat species. The female is wingless while the male has large wings and can fly.
In May 2013, Tedrow, a third-year student at Case Western Reserve University, collected the female and male insects while conducting field research with Svenson in Rwanda. The team used bright lights at night to lure the insects out of the thick forest. Tedrow picked up the male and female by hand from the forest floor after using this light trapping method.
The female later laid an egg case, called an ootheca. This allowed the researchers to study the insect’s emerging nymphs. The female, male, egg case and nymphs were all described in the research publication. It is rare in an insect species description for scientists to be able to describe all of these components at one time.
“We knew this mantis was special after completing nearly eight months of work to identify all the specimens found during the three-week expedition,” said Tedrow, who is studying evolutionary biology. “The new species is amazing because the fairly small female prowls through the underbrush searching for prey while the male flies and appears to live higher in the vegetation.”
Tedrow and Svenson were able to compare the new mantis with similar specimens in museum collections in Berlin, Germany, as well as the U.S. National Museum insect collection, which is on loan to Svenson and is located at the Cleveland museum.
The bush tiger mantis is brown in color. Using highly accurate measurements taken from the bush tigers’ bodies, coloration and other features, the researchers concluded that the specimens were from the genus Dystacta,
which until now contained only one species, Dystacta alticeps
. Compared to this related species, Dystacta tigrifrutex
is shorter in length by a third to a half, lacks a unique pattern on the underside, the female is completely devoid of wings, and has fewer spines on parts of its legs.
According to Svenson, the research has important conservation implications.
“The new praying mantis species was found in the high altitude rain forest region of southwestern Rwanda and probably only lives within Nyungwe National Park, which adds significant justification for protecting the park to ensure species like this can continue to exist,” said Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University.
The researchers collaborated with co-authors Kabanguka Nathan and Nasasira Richard from the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management, located adjacent to Nyungwe National Park. This collaborative project may be the first concerted effort to survey mantises from this African national park.
The research is part of Svenson’s Project Mantodea, and was supported by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the National Science Foundation. The project is focused on the evolutionary patterns of relationship, distribution and complex features of praying mantises.
About The Cleveland Museum of Natural History
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, incorporated in 1920, is one of the finest institutions of its kind in North America. It is noted for its collections, research, educational programs and exhibits. The collections encompass more than 5 million artifacts and specimens, and research of global significance focuses on 10 natural science disciplines. The Museum conserves biological diversity through the protection of more than 6,000 acres of natural areas. It promotes health education with local programs and distance learning that extends across the globe. Its GreenCityBlueLake Institute is a center of thought and practice for the design of green and sustainable cities. cmnh.org
About Case Western Reserve University
Case Western Reserve University is one of the country’s leading private research institutions. Located in Cleveland, we offer a unique combination of forward-thinking educational opportunities in an inspiring cultural setting. Our leading-edge faculty engage in teaching and research in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Our nationally recognized programs include arts and sciences, dental medicine, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. About 4,200 undergraduate and 5,600 graduate students comprise our student body. Visit case.edu
to see how Case Western Reserve thinks beyond the possible.
Tedrow R, Nathan K, Richard N, Svenson GJ (2014) A new species of Dystacta Saussure, 1871 from Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda (Insecta, Mantodea, Dystactinae). ZooKeys 410: 1–21. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.410.7053