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.