About nine months ago I began to document the growth and development of a baby, and a few days ago this beautiful being completed a journey from her virgin conception to adulthood. She is a praying mantis (Taumantis sp.)
She emerged on February 1st, along with about 150 of her sisters. She never had a father. Her mother, which had come to me as a young nymph herself, never met a male and yet, upon reaching maturity, started laying eggs. By all accounts those eggs should have never hatched – only two species of praying mantids, out of about 2,450 known species worldwide, can develop without males (and only North American Brunneria borealis is exclusively parthenogenetic.) But hatch they did, and for a few weeks they were all doing great. Soon, however, the young nymphs started dropping like flies. In the end only a handful made it to the last, sub-adult stage, and only one completed its final molt on September 30th.
Little is known about sex determination in most praying mantids, but at least in some species the male has only one X chromosome, while in a handful of others he has two X chromosomes and a Y chromosome. The genus Taumantis has never been studied in this respect (or any other respect, for that matter; other than the original taxonomic descriptions, nothing is known about the biology of this genus), but in some related species of the subfamily Mantinae the males are diploid and have a Y chromosome, which makes it extremely likely that all my baby mantids were females; the one who reached the adulthood is one.
I am extremely curious to see if the newly mature female Taumantis lays eggs, and if so, whether they will hatch. In the meantime, here is my baby album.
10 Comments Add yours
Any updates? Did she lay any eggs?
How do you feed the mantises?
When it is warm outside I catch insects in my garden for the mantids, but when it gets cooler I buy crickets and fruits flies at Petco.
Piotr, such a delightful post. I adore these insects and this morning was out and about trying to capture the display of Mantis religiosa that our small cat managed to provoke. One, should not, for all sorts of good philosophical reasons anthropomorphise but they have such character. In that respect, the shots of your nymphs are superb!
I like that the 6th instar is subadult–like a teenager who’s just learned to flirt. Def. a coy little pose. SO delightful, of course, the whole series. LOVELY!
Shay, your photos are incredible! Combined with Piotr’s series, the mantis development from ootheca to final instar is beautifully documented. We, too, have raised mantises, spending a frantic summer sweep netting the yard just to keep them all fed. We grew rather attached to them, even as their numbers dwindled down to a handful of winged adults.
I wonder if the variation in proportionial head size is related to instar-specific prey preferences or merely reflects growth constraints – an interesting observation.
I notice a lot of your “white box” photos use a slightly reflective substrate – what are you using? The faint reflection adds a nice touch compared to normal white box photos.
Ted, you might be right about the prey specificity of various instars. I would love to be able to track the development of this species in the wild.
The background in these photos is a piece of smooth, white plastic. I also like the reflection:)
an interesting find and good pictures!
I also raised praying mantises (Sphodromantis viridis) and followed their growth and posted it here:
it’s in hebrew but thank god for google translate.
A very nice set of photos, thanks for the link; the parasitoid wasp is particularly impressive. I love Sphodromantis, they are some of my favorite mantids.