Orchid Mantis

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orchid mantis.jpg


The Orchid Mantis takes the appearance of a flower to lure in its prey; they are known to be better at attracting in insects than actual blossoms. Not only does the Orchid Mantis appear to look like a real flower, but according to researchers they "beat the petally beauties at their own game." For a recent study research scientists James O'Hanlon and Marie Herberstein from Macquarie University in Australia along with Gregory Holwell from the University of Auckland in New Zealand traveled to Malaysia to observe whether or not if the orchid mantis' impression of a blossom actually attracted in pollinators as a death trap. In order to make this trip to Malaysia the National Geographic Society Committee provided funding for the exploration and research. 

           Once they arrived in Malaysia, the hard part was trying to find these orchid mantises within the forests of Malaysia. They were able to receive guidance from the natives of the land to aid them in their research. When they finally gathered a couple of orchid mantises, the researchers began to search the forest for flowers that the mantis was imitating. However, they were unable to find a specific flower that the mantis tried to replicate. They found that the mantises take the visual form of any general flower that displayed typical characteristics to that of Malaysian flowers.

             They conducted two experiments where they used an instrument that was able to "measure wavelengths of light that an insects sees, which is outside of the range detectable by human vision," this instrument is called spectrophotometer.  Based on their findings they were able to make the observation that the color of an orchid mantis is so vague that you cannot really tell the difference from a vast number of Malaysian flowers from the insect's perspective. Their next study was observational where they observed the number of insects that were drawn or attracted to the mantis in a live field setting. They also "compared this to the number of insects that inspected an actual flower in the same amount of time." Based on their predicted hypothesis that mantises would attract more insects that real flowers proved to be true!

            The mantises' feet look exactly like flower petals which give it a more convincing touch. According to the researchers, this is the first time ever that research is being done on orchid mantises attracting pollinators; therefore there is really nothing to compare their research to.

The reason I choose to blog about this is because I found it interesting, I have never heard of this animal. However I found many problems with their research, I have come up with a lot of reasons and questions to go along with it. In the article they mentioned this was an experimental study, however nothing was really manipulated. I would classify this more as an observational study because although in the first experiment they use the spectrophotometer, this simply just measured wave lengths. There were no controls in their study and they did not mention the number of mantises that were being observed. Also what was their main motive for wanting to do research on this creature, because there are many animals out there that use camouflage to bring in their prey, what makes this case so special? This is just a simple reasoning for Darwin's theory on natural selection.

They were able to observe that pollinators seemed to be more attracted to the disguised mantis; however they did not really question why or why not? Are there other variables that could play into this, such as scent and location? How many different colors and flowers can they replicate? I felt their study was too broad and needed a stronger hypothesis or supporting evidence for it to be significant....what do you think? Do you agree?






1 Comment

I agree with you, how could this be considered an "experiment" if they aren't testing anything.. all they are doing is just observing it in it's natural habitat and recording their findings. However, these animals are very interesting and I have never heard of anything quite like them! Here are some cool facts of the orchid mantis that I found!http://www.keepinginsects.com/praying-mantis/species/orchid-mantis/

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