Praying mantises are insects with a distinctly alien look about them. Their other-worldly appearance is characterised by a triangular head, large compound eyes and prominent spikey front legs. It is these folded fore-limbs that give rise to their common name, as they are held in a prayer-like position. One of the more bizarre and gruesome behaviours is that of sexual cannibalism where the female eats the male after, or even during, mating.
Most of the 2,400 species of mantis are ambush predators, waiting patiently for prey to stray within striking distance. They devour any unfortunate victims alive, often head first. Praying mantises can effectively blend into the background to use for both attack and defence, with some going as far as looking like leaves, grass or even stones.
Scientific name: Mantodea
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Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web