Thursday, January 28, 2016

A new praying mantis: Cornucollis masoalensis

Mantises are generalist predators which means that they eat a large variety of insects, e.g. butterflies, grasshoppers, and bees. Larger species can actually prey on small vertebrates including hummingbirds. Their front legs are modified into perfect tools for grasping and holding prey, which is eaten alive. At rest, the folded front legs give the impression of a posture of prayer, hence the common name praying mantis.

Mantises have incredible good eyesight. Some species have a visual range of 20 m which is a lot for a rather small animal. Their compound eyes may comprise up to 10 000 individual eyes.

These animals are also famous for cannibalism of males by females but it seems that this is not the rule among all mantis species.

The newly described leaf-dwelling mantis, Cornucollis masoalensis, was discovered in a museum collection and measures about 24 mm in length, which is small for a praying mantis. It has distinctive speckled patches on its head. It is named for the Masoala peninsula of Madagascar, the region where the specimen was collected.

For the experts: An examination of Malagasy specimens accessed within the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle, Paris, France, produced a praying mantis (Insecta: Mantodea) of an undescribed genus and species. An investigation of the internal and external morphology, in addition to its collection locality, revealed that this specimen belongs to the Iridopterygidae subfamily Tropidomantinae. Furthermore, the specimen’s unique combination of characters justified the creation of a new genus. Geographic distributional records and external morphological character evidence are presented for Cornucollis gen. n. masoalensis sp. n. We provide a dichotomous key of the Tropidomantinae and Nilomantinae genera distributed within Madagascar. High-resolution images, illustrations of morphological characters, natural history information, and measurement data are presented.

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