Shield Mantises and Their Diverse Species

The shield mantis is a popular type of praying mantis. Often camouflaged to resemble leaves, these ambush predators boast a unique “shield” shape and are masters of disguise. Let’s dive into the captivating world of shield mantises, exploring their distinctive physical characteristics, habitat, diet, unique hunting techniques, and different types of them.

Shield mantis overview

The shield mantis is not a single species but a group of a variety of species that exhibit a shield-like thorax, which is broad and extends outward, resembling a leaf or a flower petal. This is how they get their name. With this shield-like appearance, these insects can easily blend into leaves to hunt prey and avoid predators. As nymphs, they don’t have this shield. Instead, it gradually grows with each shedding until they reach adult size.

They vary in size, color, and body structure depending on the species, with some exhibiting bright colors and others sporting more subdued hues. Their coloration varies from green to brown, matching the foliage they reside in. Like all mantises, they have triangular heads, large compound eyes, and forelegs adapted for grasping prey.

A shield mantis on leave - one of different types of mantis

Also known as leaf mantis or hood mantis, these mantises are found worldwide, from Asia to Central and South America. These insects live in tropical forests and jungles where there is an abundance of vegetation. Their habitat choice is closely related to their camouflage needs, as dense foliage offers them the best chances of blending in and surviving.

They are primarily predatory, feeding on a variety of food, mostly insects and occasionally, small vertebrates. Their hunting strategy involves camouflage and ambush, with swift movements to capture prey.

Like other mantids, the shield praying mantis undergoes a fascinating reproductive process, which includes courtship behaviors where the male approaches the female with caution. Mantis reproduction can be risky for males due to the possibility of sexual cannibalism, where the female may attack and consume the male before, during, or after copulation.

Their life cycle has 3 stages: egg – nymph – adult. Their lifespan in the wild is less than a year. You can discover the Secret World of Praying Mantises here.

Types of shield mantis

There are more than 40 types of shield mantis among 4 genera (Rhombodera, Asiadodis, Tamolanica, and Choeradodis). Here are 7 special types of them:

  • Chinese shield mantis (Asiadodis yunnanensis)

Compared to other shield praying mantises on the list, the Chinese mantis stands out for resembling a leaf the most. Its thorax widens and gradually tapers towards the rear, giving the impression that the thorax seamlessly merges into the abdomen.

In contrast to other shield mantis species, the wings of the Chinese mantis are underdeveloped and short. Additionally, their bodies are also relatively short, and they display a green coloration. This species is native to China, Thailand, and Myanmar.

Chinese shield praying mantis

  • Asian shield mantis (Asiadodis squilla)

As the name suggests, this shield praying mantis comes from Asia, specifically from regions like India and Sri Lanka. It features an elongated, flattened body with a broad thorax, and it typically sports a green coloration. Its wings are also adapted to enhance its camouflage. They are broad and leaf-like, often with patterns that resemble the veins of a leaf.

  • Colombian shield mantis (Choeradodis columbica)

The Colombian shield praying mantis boasts a brighter hue compared to the Asian species above. Its wings bear vein patterns reminiscent of leaves, with small spots on the forewings resembling leaf damage or fungal spots. Additionally, the inner portion of its forelegs displays an orange-yellow hue, accentuated by a central black dot. This insect is primarily found in Peru and Colombia.

  • New Guinea shield mantis (Tamolanica tamolana)

While other shield praying mantises typically display a green hue, the New Guinea shield mantis stands out in brown tones. The females exhibit a lighter, beige coloration, while the males, smaller in size, sport a darker brown shade.

New Guinea shield mantis (Tamolanica tamolana)
Source: iNaturalist

Its wings harmonize with the earthy tones of their bodies, often featuring patterns resembling leaf veins. You can also see patches or spots mimicking leaf damage or fungal spots on its front wings.

Additionally, their slender thorax adds to their distinctive appearance. Originating from New Guinea, these insects boast unique characteristics within the shield mantis family.

  • Peruvian shield mantis (Choeradodis rhombicollis)

The Peruvian shield praying mantis has a green body and a long thorax, looking much like its Colombian relatives. Its front wings are decorated with patterns that resemble the veins of a leaf, complete with spots that look like leaf damage or fungus. These markings also appear on its thorax.

This mantis is from the Americas and lives in many countries, including Peru, Mexico, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Suriname, French Guiana, Nicaragua, Panama, and Guatemala.

  • Giant shield mantis (Rhombodera megaera)

The giant shield praying mantis, similar to mantis species from New Guinea, has a small and slender “shield”. It has a size of about 3 – 5 inches in length, with the male being smaller. This type of mantis is mint-colored and often found in the rainforests of southern China and Thailand.

Malaysian shield mantis (Rhombodera basalis)
  • Malaysian shield mantis (Rhombodera basalis)

The last one on our list is the Malaysian shield mantis. This insect is one of the biggest mantises around. Adult females measure about 12 cm long, while males are a bit smaller at around 10 cm. They come in different colors, like green or a mix of green and mustard yellow-brown. Their front wings have white spots and patterns that look like veins on leaves.

This particular mantis looks really fierce and acts very aggressively. The juvenile and adult like to eat big prey like grown-up crickets or cockroaches. It is more likely to eat its own kind compared to other shield praying mantises.

You can usually find it on trees and bushes across Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Borneo, and Singapore. Compared to other mantis species, it has a longer lifespan. The male usually lives around 1.5 years while the female lives longer, about 2 years.

Reference: Wikipedia


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