One of the most powerful hunters among all the arthropods is the Praying Mantis. With its two long spiked forelegs, positioned, it lies in wait for its prey to get close. Once the prey gets within reach, the mantis lashes out at it with its forelegs and grasps it to make a meal of it.
The mantis usually holds its prey with one arm between the head and thorax, and the other on the abdomen. Then, if the prey does not resist, the mantis eats it alive. However, if the prey does resist, the mantis often eats it head first, some species of mantises being more prone to the behavior than others.
A very powerful predator and a pretty merciless one as well.
Mantises are also known to cannibalize. A female mantis, being much bigger in size than a male, is known to bite the head off of the male, while mating. But, have read that, there seems to be a lot of debate on this behavior and that, this is more commonly observed among mantises held in captivity.
However, mantises, do predate on their own kind. They are very opportunistic hunters and would eat pretty much anything that they are capable of hunting.
A couple of weeks back , was witness to one such instance of an opportunistic hunting by a mantis.
It seems to be the birthing season for the mantises. With a lot of recently emerged little mantises, there was a flurry of activity all around the flowering plants. These little mantises were positioning themselves on the leaves in the trademark mantis style, waiting for something to feed upon. At times , saw more than five or so of the little ones around on the same leaf. Don’t know how they manage to communicate with each other and not get in each others way.
As the young ones were busy trying to hone up their hunting skills, there was an older guy ( don’t know if it was a male or a female ), who was on the prowl. This older one started edging close to one of the little ones. I had no idea, then, what his intentions were. I thought, it might just pass by or in the least, the little one might scamper away quickly. But, things transpired to be quite different. The adult mantis immediately thrust at the young one and caught hold of it with its powerful forearms. And in an instant, he bit off its head and started feeding on it. The young one was no match for the much bigger mantis.
Having finished up on the meal, it didn’t seem as though this big bully was done for the day yet. After a short while, I saw him go after another mantis, slightly larger one this time.
This one proved to be a tough opponent and a duel of sorts ensued between the two. However the bigger one had the advantage and finally had his way.
This was as raw as it could get for me, thus far, in the macro world. Had seen a jumping spider kill another jumping spider, but this one was something else. It felt very violent and started triggering many moral questions of why,…in my mind. Why would the mantis resort to this kind of a behavior..?….a feeling of empathy towards the little ones…, thoughts like this flowed through my mind.
But, who am I to judge, right…Guess, this is the way of nature, all about the simple act of survival, akin to the fundamental rule of the raw and untamed natural world, “The Survival of the Fittest”………