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The King of Dinosaurs

"Bush Tiger" Praying Mantis Discovery

"Bush Tiger" Praying Mantis Discovery

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 in Rwanda, Africa. Tedrow, a former Kirtlandia Research Intern at the Museum, 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.

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 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. It lacks a unique pattern on the underside, and the female is completely devoid of wings.

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 Kabanguka Nathan and Nasasira Richard from the Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management. This collaborative project may be the first concerted effort to survey mantises from this African national park.

The Rwanda survey resulted in a wealth of finds, among which the bush tiger mantis was the only new species. After months of analyzing the collected insects, the researchers found a dozen new to Rwanda.

The research is part of Svenson’s Project Mantodea, and was supported by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the National Science Foundation.

To read the journal article, click here

To read the press release, click here

To view the photo gallery, click here