Wingless mantis (Apteromantis aptera)

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Wingless mantis Apteromantis aptera male
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Wingless mantis fact file

Wingless mantis description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumArthropoda
ClassInsecta
OrderMantodea
FamilyMantidae
GenusApteromantis (1)

Apteromantis aptera is a small mantis endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. Its most distinctive feature is the complete absence of wings in both the adult male and female, which means that, at first sight, it can often be confused with the nymphs of other mantis species (2) (4) (5).

Like all mantises (species in the order Mantodea), Apteromantis aptera has a triangular head, large, widely-spaced eyes and keen eyesight (6). In Apteromantis aptera, the eyes are elongated and conical, ending in a point (2) (3) (5). This species also has a narrow pronotum, moderately long legs and moderately long cerci (2) (3) (5). As in other mantises, its highly modified, grasping forelegs bear hooks and spines and are used to seize prey (6).

The body of Apteromantis aptera is usually green or yellowish, but can also be light brown or grey (2) (3) (4). The female of this species is larger than the male (4). Apteromantis aptera was originally placed in the genus Ameles as well as in Pseudoyersinia, but can be distinguished from species in these genera by the absence of wings in both sexes in the adult stage (5).

Also known as
predicador, Santa Teresa de Sierra Nevada, Santateresa de Sierra Nevada.
Size
Male body length: 27 - 28 mm (2) (3)
Female body length: 28.5 - 36 mm (2) (3)
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Wingless mantis biology

Like other mantises, Apteromantis aptera is a skilled predator. The forelegs are held against the body until prey is in range, at which point the mantis shoots the legs forward to seize its victim. Grasped firmly, the prey is then brought to the mouth and eaten (6). As in other mantis species, the diet of Apteromantis aptera consists mainly of insects and other arthropods (2) (3) (4), particularly orthopterans (grasshoppers and crickets) (3). This species is active during the day (3).

Apteromantis aptera is likely to have an annual life cycle, with one generation per year. This means that it is likely to overwinter as a nymph and reach the adult stage in late spring, the adults dying later in the year (8).

Female mantises lay eggs in a capsule known as an ‘ootheca’, the size and shape of which differs between species. The ootheca hardens on contact with the air, protecting the developing eggs within (6). In Apteromantis aptera, the female lays around 30 to 40 eggs within an ootheca which measures around 1 centimetre in length (2) (3) (4). The number of oothecae laid by each female is currently unknown (4).

Apteromantis aptera lays its eggs between May and June, with the young mantises, known as nymphs, hatching between July and August (3). As in other mantises, the young of Apteromantis aptera resemble small versions of the adult, but are likely to pass through several moults before undergoing a final moult into the full adult form (6).

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Wingless mantis range

Apteromantis aptera is found in central and southern Spain and southern Portugal (3) (4) (7).

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Wingless mantis habitat

Apteromantis aptera is usually found in low vegetation on dry, sunny hills, typically in mosaic landscapes of grassland, fields, scrub or matorral. This species has been recorded from sea level up to elevations of around 1,300 metres (2) (3) (4).

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Wingless mantis status

Apteromantis aptera is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened

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Wingless mantis threats

The threats to this little-known insect are not well defined, but its inability to fly and its sedentary behaviour are likely to make it vulnerable to habitat changes (8). Apteromantis aptera has a rather patchy and restricted distribution (4), and its preferred habitat is under threat from intensive agriculture and the loss of naturalised areas of scrub (3) (4). The progressive abandonment of ranches also poses a threat to this species, as it allows the excessive growth of vegetation (4).

The use of broad-scale pesticides may also affect Apteromantis aptera, both directly and indirectly, through the loss of its insect prey (3) (4). Apteromantis aptera may have a larger distribution than currently thought, as it can be difficult to detect and can easily be confused with the nymphs of other species. However, it is believed to be rare and many aspects of its biology are still unknown (2) (3) (4).

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Wingless mantis conservation

Apteromantis aptera is listed on Appendix II of the Bern Convention, which lists species in need of special protection within Europe (9). It is also listed on Annexes II and IV of the EU Habitats Directive, which covers species requiring the designation of special areas of conservation as well as those needing strict protection (10). Apteromantis aptera has been protected under Spanish law since 1988 (2), and is listed on the Red List of Invertebrates of Andalucía and the Red List of Invertebrates of Spain (3) (4).

There are no specific conservation measures currently targeted at Apteromantis aptera (3). However, measures to preserve its habitat have been recommended, for example by preserving patches of natural vegetation, such as shrubs and trees, among areas of intensive agriculture (3) (4). It will also be important to prevent further loss of habitat due to agricultural, industrial, urban or touristic activities (3).

The conservation of this rare insect is hampered by a lack of knowledge about the species (2), so further research should be undertaken into its life cycle, habitat preferences and diet (3). Regular monitoring of known populations of Apteromantis aptera would also help in avoiding any activities that threaten this species’ survival (3) (4).

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Find out more

Find out more about Apteromantis aptera and its conservation:

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Authentication

Authenticated (13/08/11) by Dr M Roberto Battiston, Director of Musei Civici di Valstagna, Mantodea specialist at IUCN/SSC Grasshopper Specialist Group.

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Glossary

Arthropods
A very diverse phylum (a major grouping of animals) that includes crustaceans, insects and arachnids. All arthropods have paired jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton (exoskeleton).
Cerci
Pair of appendages at the rear end of an insect’s abdomen, which often perform a sensory role.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Matorral
Spanish for thicket or shrubland; originally referred to the shrublands of Spain’s Mediterranean climate regions, but also used to refer to Mediterranean-climate shrublands in Mexico, Chile and elsewhere.
Moult
In insects, a stage of growth whereby the hard outer layer of the body (the exoskeleton) is shed and the body becomes larger.
Nymph
Stage of insect development, similar in appearance to the adult but sexually immature and without wings. The adult form is reached via a series of moults and the wings develop externally as the nymph grows.
Orthoptera
A group of insects comprising crickets, grasshoppers and locusts. They typically have large hind legs modified for jumping.
Pronotum
In insects, the hardened cuticle on the upper surface of the first thoracic segment (the part of the body nearest the head).
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. Peinado, M.V. and Mateos, J. (1998) Orthopteroidea españoles con estatus de protección estricta I. Apteromantis aptera (Fuente, 1893). (Mantodea, Amelinae). Observatorio Medioambiental, 1: 221-231.
  3. Tórres. F.P. (2011) Apteromantis aptera (Fuente, 1884). In: Verdú, J.R., Numa, C. and Galante, E. (Eds.) Atlas y Libro Rojo de Los Invertebrados Amenazados de España (Especies Vulnerables). Dirección General de Medio Natural y Política Forestal, Ministerio de Medio Ambiente, Medio Rural y Marino, Madrid. Available at:
    http://www.marm.es/es/biodiversidad/temas/inventarios-nacionales/Apteromantis_aptera_tcm7-187494.pdf
  4. Tórres, F.P., García, I.S. and Barea-Azcón, J.M. (2008) Apteromantis aptera (Fuente, 1894). In: Barea-Azcón, J.M., Ballesteros-Duperón, E. and Moreno, D. (Eds.) Libro Rojo de los Invertebrados de Andalucía. 4 Tomos. Consejería de Medio Ambiente, Junta de Andalucía, Sevilla. Available at:
    http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/web/Bloques_Tematicos/Publicaciones_Divulgacion_Y_Noticias/Documentos_Tecnicos/libro_rojo_invertebrados/tomo3/especies_ordenes_otros_insectos.pdf
  5. Battiston, R., Picciau, L., Fontana, P. and Marshall, J. (2010) Mantids of the Euro-Mediterranean Area. World Biodiversity Association, Verona.
  6. O'Toole, C. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Insects and their Allies. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  7. Grosso-Silva, J.M. and Soares-Vieira, P. (2004) First record of Apteromantis aptera (Fuente, 1894) for Portugal and confirmation of the occurrence of Perlamantis alliberti Guérin-Méneville, 1843 (Dictyoptera, Mantodea). Boletín de la Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa, 35: 277.
  8. Battiston, R. (August, 2011) Pers. comm.
  9. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (January, 2012)
    http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/EN/Treaties/Html/104.htm
  10. EU Habitats Directive (January, 2012)
    http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-1374
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Image credit

Wingless mantis Apteromantis aptera male  
Wingless mantis Apteromantis aptera male

© Roberto Battiston

DrM Roberto Battiston
Musei Civici di Valstagna - Via Garibaldi, 27 - 36020, Valstagna
VI),
Italy
Tel: +39 (0424) 99891
roberto.battiston@museivalstagna.it

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