Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Mantis Ear and Other Delicacies
These two insects were found in the small but tantalizing insect, arachnid and other small creepy critter section at the San Diego Wild Animal Park on our recent visit there. The first photo is a pair of stick insects (can you believe I did not make a note to remember the species or country of origin? Sorry) exhibiting mating or pre-copulatory behavior just inside the glass wall of their tiny artificially lit world. The female maybe six inches long or so. The much smaller male is seen on top (to the right of her in the photo) grasping her head with his forelegs. Really crappy photo but I thought I'd throw it out there for your enjoyment.
The second one is a female mantis, and I kind of remember the sign saying something about this being found in California. I must have been really giddy that day, not to have taken time to write down or remember the species, but could this be our own Stagmomantis californica? Her color here is distorted by the improper white balance setting on the camera.
I was admiring the adaptative elongation of the mantis prothorax, to which the forelegs are attached, and the melding of the mesothorax and metathorax into the rounded shape of the six-segmented female abdomen when I noticed the slit there between the four rear legs. Hold the phone, is that an ear? I really thought it looked like one and so did a little research and found yes, many mantids do have one ear located, you guessed it, on the mesothorax between the legs. Having one ear is said to be unique among animals. According to what I read (here and here, thank you Mr. Feldman and Dr. Yager) this one ear is mainly used to pick up ultrasound emissions of bats. Huh!