A scientist from The Cleveland Museum of Natural History led research that revised the horned praying mantis group and traced the evolution of its distinctive camouflage features. Gavin Svenson, Ph.D., and his colleagues identified a new genus and a new tribe of praying mantis and discovered that disruptive camouflage evolved twice within the group. The second, more recent, occasion occurred after the re-evolution of a special leg lobe that disguises the body profile to help the insect hide from predators. The research was published online on November 16, 2015 in Systematic Entomology. The article is titled “Re-Evolution of a Morphological Precursor of Crypsis Investment in the Newly Revised Horned Praying Mantises (Insecta, Mantodea, Vatinae).” Dr. Svenson and his team studied the origins of 16 features that provide disruptive crypsis for the Central and South American horned praying mantises of the subfamily Vatinae, all of which contribute to their camouflage strategy. These features include a head process or horn and leafy-looking lobes on the legs. The team analyzed 33 species and nearly 400 specimens from museum collections in the United States, South America, and Europe, as well as insects Dr. Svenson recently sampled from South America. "Praying mantises depend on camouflage to avoid predators, but we have known little about the patterns of how body structures contributing to crypsis evolved," said Dr. Svenson, Curator of Invertebrate Zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and lead author of the study. "We discovered that two mantis lineages evolved structural camouflage millions of years apart in very similar ways.
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