Mantis (order Mantodea)
The insect order Mantodea consists of approximately 2,000 species worldwide in temperate and tropical habitats, of which a majority are in the Family Mantidae. Often mistakenly spelled preying mantis (since they are notoriously predatory), they are in fact named for the typical "prayer-like" stance. The word mantis derives from the Greek word mantis for prophet or fortune teller. The closest relatives of mantises are the orders Isoptera (termites) and Blattodea (cockroaches), and these three groups are sometimes ranked together in the superorder Dictyoptera.
Sexual cannibalism is common among mantises in captivity, and under some circumstances may also be observed in the field. The female may start feeding by biting off the male's head (as with any prey), and if mating had begun, the male's movements may become even more vigorous in its delivery of sperm. Early researchers thought that because copulatory movement is controlled by ganglion in the abdomen, not the head, removal of the male's head was a reproductive strategy by females to enhance fertilisation while obtaining sustenance. Later, this bizarre behaviour appeared to be an artifact of intrusive laboratory observation. Whether the behaviour in the field is natural, or also the result of distractions caused by the human observer, remains controversial.
About 20 species are native to the United States, including the common Carolina mantis. Two species (the Chinese Mantis and the European Mantis) were deliberately introduced to serve as pest control for agriculture, and have spread widely in United States and Canada.
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