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Scientists discover the cunning strategy of male praying mantis developed to prevent females from decapitating him after mating

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A recent study documented for the first time the violent fight mantis have before mating and the key to survival.

A male praying mantis looking for sex doesn’t have to worry about a female stealing his heart. However, there is a good chance that she will bite off his head, and he knows it.

In fact, 60 per cent of sexual encounters between mantis, one of nearly 2,000 species of mantis worldwide, end with the males being eaten as a snack after sex.

Scientists from New Zealand have found that males of one species of praying mantis can use certain tactics in order to protect themselves from the attack of an aggressive female.

The article was published in the journal Biology Letters. Exposure to sex hormones leads to an increase in the aggressive behavior of female praying mantises. In addition, they are larger and heavier than males, therefore they often trade in cannibalism: females are able to eat not only sexual partners but even their own cubs, if they did not have time to hide, having hatched from an egg.

This allows female to receive the nutrients she needs to raise her offspring. In about 40-50 per cent of cases, mating takes place without excesses, however, sexual contact for a male praying mantis is a real game of Russian roulette: lucky, unlucky.

Scientists from the University of Auckland (New Zealand) observed the behavior of the mantis species Miomantis caffra in the laboratory. In total, 52 pairs of these insects participated in the experiment, which were placed inside transparent plastic cups (with a capacity of 700 milliliters) and all their actions were recorded during the day. 

Before a randomly selected male was launched into the “aviary”, the night before, the females were fed well with flies and given an hour to get used to being inside the cups. As a result of the experiment, the scientists found out that males have developed certain tactics to protect themselves from females. And the best way to defend is to attack.

It is used by males of Miomantis caffra. The researchers noticed that male praying mantises are extremely careful when approaching females and try to distract her from their own body with some tidbit (or in which case they pretend to be dead). But the Miomantis caffra males have developed more assertive tactics.

Most contact between the sexes of this species of praying mantis begins with a fierce struggle. And if the female “wins”, this is a sure sign that she will eat her sexual partner after mating. If male wins the upper hand, he manages not only to successfully copulate but also to “carry out his legs” in time (in 78 per cent of cases).

It is not surprising that the male specimens of Miomantis caffra try to act swiftly and energetically at the sight of a “liked” female, attempting to be the first to grab her “sides” and even injure her with their claws (so much so that the female partner subsequently develops real scars). An injury to a female, as the same scientists noted, further increases the male’s chances of survival.

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