Scientists have discovered a new species of praying mantis in Rwanda’s mountainous Nyungwe National Park, and have described it in the journal ZooKeys.
Like all praying mantises, the new species is a vicious hunter. The wingless females are adapted for catching prey close to the ground and in undergrowth — similar to the hunting practices of a tiger — which inspired researchers to name it Dystacta tigrifrutex, or the bush tiger mantis.
“The new species is amazing because the fairly small female prowls through the underbrush searching for prey while the male flies and appears to live higher in the vegetation,” said Riley Tedrow, who is studying evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University.
“The new praying mantis species was found in the high altitude rain forest region of southwestern Rwanda and probably only lives within Nyungwe National Park, which adds significant justification for protecting the park to ensure species like this can continue to exist,” said Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University.
The new species was discovered on a cool and rainy night in a thick, montane forest during a survey of insects in Nyungwe National Park in southwestern Rwanda. Light traps used by the scientists attracted a male specimen of what then seemed to be an unknown species of praying mantis, which had wings and flew to the light.
Later they found a wingless female of the same new species, but the surprises did not stop there.
Soon after the female was placed in captivity, she laid an egg case and the researchers were later able to see the emerging nymphs. This lucky string of events allowed the scientists to describe in one go the male, female, nymphal stages, and a large portion of the biology of the new species.
The three-week Rwanda survey turned up a wealth of other finds, and after eight months of identifying the collected insects, the researchers also identified a dozen that were new to Rwanda.
Lead authors Gavin Svenson and Riley Tedrow plan to return to Nyungwe with fellow researchers in June to survey more mantises and to search other locations in the park. They hope to return with more new species, and to learn whether the bush tiger’s habitat is limited or more broadly spread.
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