Orchid Mantis Attract Prey by Mimicking Flowers, Study Confirms

First Posted: Dec 03, 2013 07:23 AM EST

The famous Orchid Mantis, which disguises itself like an orchid to catch prey, is in fact more attractive to insects than the real orchid, claims a new study.

The finding led by researchers James O'Hanlon and Marie Herbestein from Macquarie University in collaboration with Gregory Holwell at the University of Auckland, discovered that the orchid mantis is more attractive to the pollinators than the real flower.

During an expedition in Malaysia, researchers noticed that the body of the orchid mantis attracted quite a lot of insects, revealing how the flower like appearance evolved to attract the pollinators.

"What really surprised us was the fact that the orchid mantises were even more successful at attracting pollinators than real flowers," said O'Hanlon. "Their bright floral colours and petal shaped legs create a tantalizing lure for insects. So it seems that orchid mantises not only look like flowers but also beat flowers at their own game. After more than a century of conjecture we provide the first experimental evidence of pollinator deception in the orchid mantis and the first description of a unique predatory strategy that has not been documented in any other animal species."

In this study, the researchers compared the color of the orchid mantises to the 13 species of flowers in Malaysia using spectrophotometer. This device helps to measure the wavelengths which the insects see. Researchers noticed that the insects viewed the orchid mantis in the same color as the Malaysian flower species. The researchers also counted the number of pollinating insects being attracted to the real flowers. source iSciencetimes.

"The orchid mantises we observed were not hiding amongst flowers, but were sitting on their own against a backdrop of green vegetation," O'Hanlonsaid."Thus, it was the body of the mantis itself that was attracting the pollinators, and not any flowers in its vicinity."

The study was published in the Chicago Journals for The American Society of Naturalists.

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