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  • Praying Mantis Anatomy

    Praying Mantis Insect Anatomy Diagrams and Nomenclature

    Adult insects have common basic structures. The insect body has three main parts. These are the head, thorax, and abdomen. Each of these sections bear appendages (eg: antennae, mouth parts , and legs). The shape and size of appendages are modified depending on their use. Generally, the Mantis, like many insects, has a body divided into three parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), six legs, wings, two antennae, compound eyes, and a rigid exoskeleton. However, some criteria are unique and make it unique in its kind. This is the case of its front legs, which through evolution into hooks called abducting legs or “raptoriales”.Covered with thorns, they enable the Mantis the capture of prey large, unable to dig themselves out of such a trap. This adaptation is also found in other species with predatory habits, such as mantispes for example.

    Another, more comparable to human anatomy, specificity is the ability to turn its triangular head to more than 180 degrees. The presence of a long Prothorax facilitates this almost periscopic mobility! Note that little insects are capable of because of the rigidity of their “neck”. This feature allows the Mantis to stay perfectly still while having a field of view non-standard to watch for the arrival of a prey, wherever it comes.

    Sight: Observing a Mantis closely, you will notice that it seems to follow you with their eyes. This feature is explained by the presence of a called black spot pseudopupil, composed in each eye, this is only due to the light refraction  through the many facets of the eye, not the presence of a true pupil. The truth is, Mantis have five eyes, the two that are clearly visible and distinguishable on examination (compound eyes), and three simple eyes. These “ocellis” appearing between the antennas are triangular. They are intended to help the Mantis to distinguish the light from the darkness. Using these five eyes, a Mantis has the potential for relatively remote prey and see the world in a wide range of wavelengths, including ultraviolet light.

    Respiratory: The breathing is independent of any organ through a series of small pores called spiracles ou stigmatas, and from which the tracheae branch to form the respiratory system. The latter can be very limited and suffer asphyxiation if the air circulation is not sufficient or even if a substance just clog the surface of holes. To compensate for this problem, you will easily observe engorged females, Contracting their abdominal muscles on a regular basis, in order to increase the air flow at the surface of the pores.

    Circulatory System : The circulation of the blood in the body is completely independent of the breath. As a result, a Mantis can survive even after losing a lot of blood and a member.

    Digestion : after having ingested prey, which is digestible is excreted through openings called the Malpighi tubules (equivalent of the kidneys in vertebrates) in the form of dry granules composed of crystallized uric acid.

    Reproductive organs : they are not observable because internal. However, we can observe a laying device ovipositor at the end of the abdomen of females, as well as two appendages called multisegmentescerques and playing a role in the perception of movement.

    Skeleton : it’s a sort of rigid protective shell called external exoskeleton and made up of chitine. Unlike other animals, insects must go through a gradual succession of molts to leave their new exoskeleton to grow and reach adulthood. This process also allows the regeneration of members lost to the previous stage. But according to the nature of the injury, damage can sometimes lead to complications at the level of the molts and causing death (a major cause of death in the development of the Mantis). The nymph to adult, a Mantis molt six to nine times by species and sex.

    Hearing : the Mantis are equipped with a unique, localized ear under the body at the base of the hind legs. More closely, we distinguish a narrow gorge with two resonating membranes (this feature is often absent or greatly reduced in wingless females and neo-tropical species).

    The praying mantis has one ear (eardrum), located on the ventral side of the abdomen, between the four trochanter of its hind legs.

    Sexing Praying Mantis

    Nervous System

    In insects the part of the nervous system that moves each pair of legs is located between them in the thorax. That's why a cockroach without a head can still run away, or a Praying Mantis will still copulate without a head.


    • Head - Praying Mantis heads have a characteristic triangular shape and rotate freely upon a jointed neck. This 180 degree head movement is a unique feature among the insect world. All other insects have their heads fused to their thorax and are incapable of independent movement of the head.
    • Thorax - The mantis thorax is divided up into a prothorax and a mesothorax. Each of these segments is modified in shape and configuration depending upon the species of insect. Often the shape and colour of the mantis thorax plays an important role in camouflage and defense for this insect.
    • Abdomen - Praying mantids have a flexible abdomen comprised of 6 sections (male) or 8 sections (female). The adult abdomen is encased in hard plates on the top and bottom which are joined by flexible, transverse segments. When the insect breathes, the flexible sections enable the abdomen to expand. Female praying mantids have a very dextrous abdomen and are capable of highly controlled movements, especially during egg-laying.
    • Palps - Modified appendages around the mouth are used to manipulate prey and are especially important during feeding. Many species of mantids have 4 palps, two upper and two lower, that surround a powerful mouth, adapted for biting and cutting.
    • Antennae - Antennae (singular: antenna) of different species of mantis vary greatly in shape and size.
    • Ocellus - Ocellus (plural: ocelli) is from the Latin diminutive word for eye. It is a small collection of sensory cells located on the head, typically situated between the compound eyes. An adult mantis may have 3 or 4 ocelli.
    • Eye - Mantids possess a pair of large compound eyes. The multi-facetted surface of their eyes requires the mantis insect to move its head from side-to-side in order to focus properly, but gives it very good eyesight. Experiments have shown that motion parallax is apparent in the mantis. Mantis eyes change colour depending on the lighting conditions, appearing light green or tan under bright conditions, and darker coloured or brown in the dark.
    • Foreleg - The front two legs of the mantis are highly adapted for capturing and seizing prey. Often these forelegs are described as "Raptorial", meaning "adapted to seize prey".
    • Walking Appendage - The walking appendage on the foreleg folds back neatly into a modified groove on the tibia to keep out of the way when the mantis is hunting or fighting. During movement, the walking appendage extends forward and is used to support the insect. It's end segments are covered in tiny hairs.
    • Walking Hairs - At the end of the tarsae there is a concentration of microscopic hairs which enable the mantis to climb virtually any surface, including sheer glass.
    • Tibial Spines - On their modified raptorial forelegs, the praying mantid's upper tibia have two rows of variable-length spines which fit neatly with the lower tibial single-row of spines to create a "jackknife effect" when closing upon its prey. The end of the lower tibia is tipped with a wicked-looking spike that acts as a hook to pierce and ensnare prey when the leg is fully extended. As it moults and ages, the number of spikes and the thickness of the claws of the mantis will increase.
    • Middle Leg - The middle legs are used for walking and climbing. Their end segments are covered in walking hairs. They possess four joints and are long and slender.
    • Hind Leg - The hind legs are typically longer in length than the middle legs and have slightly longer foot seqments.
    • Coxa - From the Latin word for 'hip'. Similar to the 'hock', it is the basal segment of the limb of Arthropods.
    • Trochanter - A rough prominance at the upper segment of the femur. It is a second segment, counting from the base, of the leg of the insect.
    • Femur - Third segment, counting from the base, of the leg of the insect. It is the longest segment of the leg, and typically the thickest. In all mantis species it is modified for camouflage purposes, sometimes quite fancifully.
    • Tibia - The fourth segment, counting from the base, of the leg of the insect. In the praying mantis, the foreleg tibia is highly modified and specialized for mantoid activities.
    • Tarsus - The distal part of the limb of the insect. It is segmented and covered in tiny hairs.
    • Foot - The foot of the mantis insect is specially adapted for climbing and walking. Mantids can jump, run, cling to any surface, and often prefer to spend their whole life upside down. Their feet are placed with care and precision.
    • Thorax - The mantis thorax is divided into three sections. Naming from the most rostral (closest to the head) they are the prothorax, mesothorax, and metathorax.
    • Prothorax - The prothorax in a mature mantis forms an important part of their defensive exoskeleton and is often adapted in shape for camouflage. It is the most rostral section of the thorax and is the section to which the forelegs are attached.
    • Mesothorax - The mesothorax is the middle section of the thorax. The middle leg attaches to the mesothorax. On the underside of the mesothorax is located the mantid's ultrasonic ear.
    • Metathorax - The metathorax is the most caudal section of the thorax and is the segment to which the hind legs are attached.
    • Wings - The mature praying mantis insect possess two pairs of wings.
    • Forewing - The forewings are also called the outer wings. The outer wings are thickened for defense and are typically coloured for camouflage.
    • Hindwing - The inner wings are also called the hind wings. They are more delicate, are typically clear with defined veins (like dragonfly wings) and are the primary wings used for flying.
    • Reproductive Organs - The reproductive organs of the mantis are located at the teminus of the abdomen.
    • Anus - The anus is located at the end of the abdomen.
    • Cerci - The cercus (pluralized cerci) is a modified appendage located at the end of the abdomen of the female praying mantis. It is used during the egg laying process to shape the foamy secretions that will eventually harden into the ootheca and to position the eggs within the egg sac.

    Deroplatys Truncata female

    Full Reach: In this photograph, the praying mantid's delicate hindwings are visible, as well as the camouflage markings on the heavier protective forewings. Many mantids have a pair of dots on their wings which simulate a pair of eyes for defensive posturing. When defending, the mantis may rear up and wave its forelegs while simultaneously rattling its wings together to create a hissing noise. One can also see that the raptorial forelegs are fully extended. The spine on the tip of the tibial section is the primary tool for snaring prey, but the more delicate tarsus can also be used to fully extend the grasping reach of the insect.