Jorge Bizarro REGUA’s Research Co-ordinator and Lepidopterist recently found this interesting creature. We initially thought it was a Mantis and sent the photograph through to our friends in the Projeto Mantis Research Group.
Leo Lanna from the team sent back his excited reply:
“This is amazing find and actually, it is not a praying mantis! I know it looks just like a Mantis, but it actually belongs to another insect order, the Neuroptera. The family pays homage to mantises – it is called Mantispidae – and they are an amazing example of convergent evolution. This means that different evolution pressures led them to develop similar structures. They do hunt with their raptorials, like mantises, but you can notice some differences, especially the way they fold their wings, which are located on the sides of the animal, not over it. The wings are also more translucid.
Take a look at the eyes too. Mantispidae always have a beautiful, coloured pattern when you take a picture with flash, like a star or rainbow. Mantises have plain compound eyes with the fake pupil effect, not this colourful one.
We usually find a green, tiny species, from genus Zeugomantispa. We once found a huge one at Tijuca Forest, from genus Climaciella, but neither look like this one.
Thanks for sharing these findings!”
What a great find, on reading more I found that Mantispidae are also known as Mantid lacewings or mantis-flies in some parts of the world.
Thanks also to Leo and his team for encouraging us to continue to research the amazing creatures of the forests at REGUA.
Jorge appeared the other morning asking me to photograph an interesting Praying Mantis which he hadn’t seen before. “We have to get this to the Mantis team”, he said.
So I sent photographs and a description off to Leonardo Lanna of the research team researching Praying Mantis at REGUA.
Biologist Leo Lanna of the Mantis team said “This is a male of Eumusonia genus, a grass mantis. We’ve registered them on our visits – what is cool is that REGUA is the only place where we see a great variation in the males colours. They are described as brown, but we’ve seen yellow and green ones, and this is the first one we have seen that is brown with green legs.
They live among grasses and tiny bushes, as well as leaf litter, mainly on more open areas, like fields and trail borders. You can easily identify them by the triangle segment on the tip of their abdomen. Males and females share this triangle-shaped segment though females have no wings. We discovered a healthy population in the garden of Casa da Pesquisa (REGUA’s research house) when we were there in 2017 and now in March we’ve found many more, from small ones to adult males and females. We didn’t find in any other area of the reserve, though, but this will definitely add to our work..”
It is so gratifying to receive news back from Leonardo, and exciting that REGUA is the first place where they have seen this colour variation. Leonardo is so enthusiastic, interested and generous with his time in providing valuable feedback. This encourages us to keep our eyes alert in the hope of finding another species..
The expedition was a huge success! REGUA was found to have the highest diversity of mantises of any single area of the Atlantic Forest and the team found what is most likely new and undescribed species of unicorn mantis of the genus Zoolea.
They also found not one by two males of the mythical Brazilian Dragon Mantis Stenophylla cornigera – one of the rarest species of praying mantis in the world, and took the first photos and video ever of this species.
The Mantis Project is made up of Brazilian biologists Leonardo Lanna, Savio Cavalcante, João Felipe Herculano and designer Lucas Fiat, who are very keen on insects.
They met at UNIRIO University in 2015 and soon discovered that there was no-one studying the impressive Mantis order, Mantodea. There are over 430 genera and 2400 species divided in 15 families worldwide and they believed there could to be many in the Atlantic Rainforest.
Leonardo and his friends got together and started their first field trips in Valença a town in the South-West of Rio State and the following year caught an undescribed species, a first for science. Their primary interest was not in just finding and identifying these amazing creatures but also raising Mantises, showing people that these insects are not dangerous or life threatening but beautiful, gentle creatures that indicate the quality of the habitat.
With their increased passion the Team started to work at Rio de Janeiro’s Botanical Garden. They submitted a project to National Geographic in 2016 and received the funding to research the State of Rio and increase the list of the 12 genera already known there.
However, Rio de Janeiro state is very large and their study varied from sand dune habitat known as “Restinga”, Mangrove habitat to the lofty “Paramos” or sedge growing waterlogged habitat found at close to 2,600 metres above sea level in Itatiaia (two hours drive west of Rio city) where temperatures fall below zero at night in the winter.
The team also included REGUA in their research and arrived to stay at its field station in December 2017.
One mystical Praying Mantis is the Dragon Mantis, Stenophylla cornigera described by English entomologist John Westwood in 1843. It resembles depictions of miniature dragon and the young biologists had never seen one. Imagine their delight when on the first night, an example arrived at the REGUA light and they could see it in full detail.
The overall research revealed another nine genera taking the total Mantodea list in Rio de Janeiro State to 21 genera, of which 15 have been found at REGUA.
Leonardo says that REGUA is at an elevated level of habitat protection. Perhaps the significant area of remaining forest cover, full altitudinal gradient and low demographic pressure all influence but the fact is that as an indicator species, Praying mantises reveal that the REGUA conservation project is working in the right direction.