Saturday, October 16, 2010

Saw a praying mantis on campus earlier this week and decided to take a picture. I like praying mantises...sphodromantis viridis...if for no other reason than that they're pretty effing cool. They make an art form of camoflage. They even rock rhythmically to imitate vegetation blowing in the wind. Some are even able to turn black after fires destroy their habitat, the better to blend in. They are completely predatory. They eat other insects mostly, but the biggest species (Australian species primarily) will even eat birds, fish and rodents that are small enough for them to catch and devour (ok, that IS kind of gross). The females are bigger than the males, and after they finish copulating (or even during...) the females frequently eat the males' heads. According to studies--no doubt involving tiny candlelit dinners and scientists playing the mantis equivalent of Barry Manilow--males who are sexually cannibalized have increased reproductive success--they are able to mate longer, thus increasing the odds that their reproductive material makes its way into a hot mantis female.
It's kind of a black widow setup, except praying mantises are true insects (six legs, distinct abdomen, thorax and head--yes, I realize I am an utter dork) and not arachnids. I hate arachnids. I have true arachnophobia--I don't just dislike them; being around one, even one the size of, say, a mustard seed, makes me break out in a cold sweat. I read once that the average-sized American room (whatever the hell that means) in a residential setting contains 2.8 spiders. I don't think I've slept well since. Maybe if I had a bed in a cleanroom--you know, the kind they use for putting together computer components.
And the praying mantis, enraged by the paparazzi, rushes the camera! Run! Run for your lives! Run if you value your head!

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