SERIES: Invertebrate of the Week

Invertebrate of the Week #10 – Spiny Flower Mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii)

Meet the Spiny Flower Mantis, Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii , which hails from Africa. Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii is a member of a polyphyletic group of mantises referred to as flower mantises. These creatures employ a combination of morphology and behavior to aggressively mimicry of flowers.

These mantises are small, measuring just 3 – 5 cm in length, these mantises are small. Anecdotal reports from hobbyists suggest that these mantises subsequently prefer small prey items. Bees and flies seem to be selected over larger prey items. They are, however, anecdotally capable of seizing and killing prey bigger than themselves.

A white and yellow colored spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii) posed in a threat display
Spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii) posed in a threat display
Licensed image | All Rights Reserved | Alamy
A white spiny Flower Mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii) with front arms outstretched and facing the camera.
Spiny Flower Mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii) with arms outstretched.
Image by Frupus | EOL/Flickr

Like other flower mantises, Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii begins its hunt for prey by first locating a suitable flowering plant. It then climbs one of its branches and waiting for an unfortunate pollinator to approach. Once it chooses its target, it employs the lighting-fast reflexes characteristic of mantises to snatch the prey from the air before the hapless invertebrate can realize its fatal mistake.

When threatened, Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii flower mantises exhibits deimatic behavior – they arrange their body into a threatening and startling pose intended to discourage predators. The mantis spreads out its body, raises its forelimbs, and opens its wings to expose patterns that resemble two large eyes.

Juvenile spiny flower mantises are much less conspicuous. They exhibit a black coloration and are so diminutive that they are sometimes mistaken for ants.

Spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii) with wings close in a walking pose.
Profile of a spiny flower mantis (Pseudocreobotra wahlbergii) with wings closed.
Image by Frupus | EOL/Flickr

Despite being so conspicuous, the literature is noticeably lacking in material related to the life histories of these animals. Perhaps their striking appearance and public curiosity will motivate additional studies in the near future. In the meantime, we’re left with a growing visual record accompanied by a dearth of scientific exploration.

This post was updated from an earlier version published in September 2014.

References and Further Reading

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