By Culturekiosque Staff
CLEVELAND, OHIO, 19 MARCH 2014 Dr. Gavin Svenson,
curator of invertebrate zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural
History, has discovered 19 new species of praying mantis. The new
species of bark mantises were discovered in tropical forests in Central
and South America and also found among existing museum
collections. Svenson described the new species and published a
revision of the genus Liturgusa in the open access journal
Svenson collected the insects from eight countries in Central and South
America, as well as gathered hundreds of specimens from 25 international
museums in North America, South America and Europe. Many of the newly
described species are known only from a few specimens collected before
1950 from locations that are now heavily impacted by agriculture or
"This group, the Neotropical bark mantises, are incredibly fast runners
that live on the trunks and branches of trees," said Svenson of The
Cleveland Museum of Natural History. "This violates the common perception
of praying mantises being slow and methodical hunters."
Liturgusa krattorum, a new species of
praying mantis, discovered
by Dr. Gavin Svenson of The Cleveland Museum
of Natural History.
This female specimen was captured in dense
along the Amazon River in northern Peru
Svenson, Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Like most praying mantises, they are highly camouflage. However, this
group is flattened in appearance and is very difficult to locate because
of their adept mimicry of bark, moss and lichen. They often evade
discovery by running to the opposite side of the tree before being
noticed, an escape tactic also seen in many tree dwelling lizards.
"This is an amazing behavior for an insect because it shows that they
are not only relying on camouflage like most insects but are constantly
monitoring their environment and taking action to run and hide," said
Svenson. "In addition, some species leap off the tree trunk to avoid
capture and play dead after fluttering down to the forest floor since none
of the species are strong fliers."
As highly visual predators, the bark mantis species appear to be active
hunters that pursue prey as opposed to ambush hunters that wait for prey
to come close. Also, like a similar bark mantis group from Australia
(Ciulfina), this Neotropical group does not appear to exhibit
cannibalism, which is an often misunderstood characteristic exhibited by
some praying mantis species.
The research brings to light a previously unknown diversity of bark
mantises. It indicates that there are many more species to discover.
"Based on this study, we can predict that mantis groups with similar
habitat specialization in Africa, Asia and Australia will also be far more
diverse than what is currently known," said Svenson. "Many of these groups
have never been studied other than by the scientists that originally
described some of the species, which in some cases is more than 100 years
ago. This is exciting because enormous potential exists for advancing our
understanding of praying mantis diversity just by looking within our
existing museum collections and conducting a few field expeditions."
The discovery of these 19 new species triples the diversity of the
group that scientists thought had only a few species with broad
geographical ranges. The research indicates that most species are far more
restricted in their locations within regions of Central and South America.
This increased diversity and better measure of distribution has broad
implications for conservation since many of the species were found in or
near natural areas that may or may not be protected. The conservation
status of some of the new mantises found in museum collections is not
known since they have not been seen since originally collected in the
early 1900s and could be highly threatened or even extinct.
Illustrations of the male and female of a new
species, Liturgusa fossetti,
discovered by Dr. Gavin Svenson
of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Illustration by Joshua
© Gavin Svenson, Cleveland Museum of Natural
Among the new species, Liturgusa algorei, is named for Albert
Arnold "Al" Gore Jr., former vice president of the United States of
America, to honor his environmental activism and efforts to raise public
awareness of global climate change. Liturgusa krattorum is named
for Martin and Chris Kratt, hosts and creators of Kratts Creatures
and Wild Kratts, both of which provide children with entertaining and
accurate programming on animal biology. Liturgusa fossetti is
named in honor of the late James Stephen Fossett for his inspirational
dedication to exploration. Liturgusa bororum is named for the
Bora people, a group of people native to parts of the Amazon basin in
northern Peru, Columbia and Brazil. Liturgusa tessae is named for
Svensons daughter, Tessa. Liturgusa zoae is named for Svensons
Svensons research is focused on the evolutionary patterns of
relationship, distribution and complex features of praying mantises. His
current research project aims to align new sources of relationship
evidence (DNA sequence data) with morphology and other features to create
a new and accurate classification system for praying mantises that
reflects true evolutionary relationships.
This project was supported by the National Science Foundation under
grants to Gavin J. Svenson, Jason Cryan and Michael Whiting. The project
was also supported by the David M. Kennedy Center for International
Studies of Brigham Young University, the New York State Museum and the
Museum national dHistoire naturelle, Paris.
Headline photo: Dr. Gavin Svenson holding a praying
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