The species of Praying Mantis is believed to be an important example of sexual cannibalism. The myth that has been there for over a century is about to break in this documentary.
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Taking a close look at almost hundred days of a Praying Mantis’s life, the movie tries to bring about some incredible images of the creature’s lifestyle, as well as eating and reproducing habits. It covers the whole cycle of laying the eggs, hatching and growth of the insect. This feature changes a lot of theories that have been set about the Mantis.
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Oh you you you some animals wrapped in an aura of mystery have transcended the zoological frontier to become fabulous beings and the main characters of stories I have no doubt that their stories have sparked and encouraged my curiosity since childhood how many days and nights spent with my parents talking about Africa and the elephants or the jungle which I had not yet visited except in my dreams much later I would find the people who I could share this fascination with those impassioned conversations revolved around what we learned in the books of the greatest natural ists this incipient education began to grow with direct experiences and with personal observation the interest in seeing what we had read about with our very own eyes ended up marking the course of our lives the praying mantis has been discussed and written about Italy since the end of the 19th century when applying near entomologist John Irving found thoroughly investigated the species much of what is said about a deliverance is nothing more than misinterpretations of these studies or even worse pseudo scientific exaggerations when we ask someone what they supreme mentis they would say the female eats the male during copulation and so I can assure you that if you see this program through to the end the typical conclusion to an Agatha Christie story will be a windy you the temperate south of Europe is a land where many kinds of mantises feel idiots just on the Iberian Peninsula alone there are 16 different kinds the physical appearance of sun makes it completely understandable that people have made up so many horrific stories about them we wanted to find out what is hidden behind their legendary sexual rage we set out to follow a series of these animals to rent their lives this is an accurate reconstruction of their big human ear story this praying mantis began its life just a few hours ago it's one centimeter long and is already a fearsome hunter the prey of young mantises are small like lady grasshoppers or flies if they want to change the menu they have to learn what they can eat and what they can't aphids never failed they're the perfect size and are dangerous and to top it off their sweet flavor is exquisite nothing is easy in nature however upon being attacked an aphid activates a chemical alarm system secreting a special substance as it dies in order to warn the rest of its companions that something bad is happening the rest of the colony transmits the same message warning we're being attacked aphids are not fast but as they move they secrete a sticky substance that's very bothersome they secrete just enough so that the attacker is forced to withdraw this is a great time to look for food everyone takes advantage of the abundance and supplies to stockpile large quantities of resources after dedicating its first weeks to eating our baby mantis sheds its skin to increase in size its color has become greener it adapts to the vegetation of the environment in order to hide its presence even better but despite their magnificent qualities not all the baby mantises survive only a hidden elite group is able to become amigos or adults the pressure that the young of any living being are subject to may seem dramatic but it's nothing more than the way each species selects the fittest creatures it's the sacrifice of the individual for the good of the gene pool savage functional but savage [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] [Applause] the brain mantis that we have already grown fond of now measures five respectable centimeters and moves stealthily in search of prey but there are great masters in the art of seeing without being seen including those who surpass the praying mantis some insects are unknown because it is almost impossible to discover them it's obvious that the herbivores have such good disguises because they are always being pursued and threatened the sevel ushion has forced them to create forms colors and movements that are invisible even to the sharpest eye this bug does not have a common name it's one of those marvels of the chromosome game the praying mantis didn't even see it evolution has gone to a lot of trouble with the main characters of our film these praying insects have spread throughout the land giving form to enormous morphological variations some species are so big that they can hunt Birds others include small frogs and lizards in their diets close to 2,000 species of mantises have been described those that live in tropical regions can live for more than a year while those that live in areas where autumn and winter are cold normally are born breed and die in under six months this is why studying Spanish mantises was going to facilitate our investigation the ability to observe their entire life in fewer than 100 days allowed us to concentrate our efforts and obtain reliable conclusions our work was based on the Mantis religiosa but we also followed other species they gave us a more global vision while they still kept many secrets from the impossible Nauta or European Mantid is a close relative of the Mantis religiosa and has a lifespan of more than a year its young are able to hibernate this species looks like the worst imaginable Spectre invented by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings but it specializes in hunting small prey it's odd appearance owes more to its need for mimicry than its potential to hunt this is a large and busa it's a female and is in the reproductive period this small praying mantis should not be so close the end of July is the time when the Apostle a their eggs that's a key time for feeding her first movements are aimed at destroying her preys own weapons she knows who the victim is and where the danger lies she even uses her jaws to grip the jaws of the victim in a grotesque deadly kiss now all she has to do is chew she is filling her abdomen with nutrients which she would use to make the efika the egg case a small spherical cocoon which is ruli and safely protects many eggs inside [Applause] the next day we found the egg case without a doubt it was her egg case and in three weeks the babies would be born the egg cases of other species including those of the Mantis religiosa wait months for the young to emerge they're able to handle the cold remaining alive even at temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius during the autumn and winter but they are not prepared for parasites certain insects place their eggs inside the egg cases of preying mantises these wasps provide their offspring with shelter and offer them the defenseless larvae of the mantises as a source of nutrition curiously enough we witnessed only one male wasps being born he seemed to be the only one in charge of inseminating all the females he had an entire harem all to himself the wasp system is perfect each mother is inseminated upon birth and so with this tactic they avoid having to search for a mate in the future the females concentrate exclusively on eating and in a few months on searching for another phony cocoon for their descendants since the male's serve no other purpose they die shortly afterwards but let's return to the mantids phony cocoon the risk of being invaded by parasites is lower when the eggs developed in the cocoon over a shorter period of time in this particular case they needed only 20 days through each small hole a nymph in the form of a worm appears in the light at the same time it sheds its skin freeze its legs and hooks and gains the miniature form of an adult body it's rare for a species of mantids to care for its nests the law of the praying mantis states that parents never meet their children the olden Pusa mr. chance bite just a few hours for babies passed over her cadaver without even saying goodbye [Applause] meanwhile the praying mantis that we are following has shed its skin several times its color similar to that of the vegetation has also changed in the oppressive heat the food sources begin to become scarce and that juicy larvae of the butterflies are not such an easy source of food although they may seem to be because of their slow pace and texture many of them are loaded with poison and others such as the appropriately named sac caterpillar have learned to build plant fortresses to live in when they're mobile they go unnoticed and even if they move and attract attention when they're attacked their plant like flavor dissuades the carnivores with the unpleasant taste of straw and wood in its mouth our mantis looks for more prey among the vegetation before we saw an impulsive anata devour a young mantis religiosa and it would not be unusual for the tables to be turned now it seems time to take revenge but there's nothing personal [Laughter] August is coming to an end it's extremely hot and not a drop of rain has fallen in the south of this sunny country it's a success for the tourists and hotel industry in the area but in the fields the situation is getting critical and now is when our star has to become an adult it's time for the 7th sheding normally the last one the imaginal shedding once it slips out of its old layer of skin the new appearance is visible the wings emerge the external sign that the interior reproductive apparatus has also finally matured now it's sex can be distinguished clearly the abdomen is much thicker than the females and their antennae are shorter and thinner than the males our praying mantis the main character of this story is a female now at the height of her powers her obsession is eating September is the month of the hunt [Applause] [Applause] some days she eats so much that the amount of food she consumes even surpasses her body weight but she isn't a glutton she's going to need every gram every ounce of protein every bit of carbohydrate in order to produce more ovules as a tall big banquets there are always unwelcome guests who show up uninvited and this time the worst Gatecrasher has shown up late summer is characterized by anything it's by the wasps that appear at mealtime like on the African savannah where a solitary lion defends its food from the hyenas our praying mantis tried to frighten off the wasps that wanted to save her the desert her desert and not ten minutes had gone by before the ants also came to the smell of fresh meat but they were too small and too numerous something had to be given up well in the end the leg is the toughest mouthful after all like a big cat with its gazelle the Mantis looked for a quieter place she bought herself some time but they found her again as her hunger waned her courage and the need to expose herself to a dangerous stain decreased moderately satisfied she abandoned the prey to the masses wasps adore carrion although they themselves don't eat it they need carrion for their larvae which are carnivores for this reason and thanks to their superior numbers they dare to challenge the Queen mantises when they're eating this time they seem to want the Queen mantis herself but the mint is really Josa spreads her wings making them sound and shows the ocelli on her legs a complete set of threats that has served this species well for millions of years she's strong and well fed and so the wasps will have to satisfy their hunger with someone weaker as we began to become more familiar with the world of the praying mantis it was easier to understand the fascination that these animals have aroused in entomologists and natural ists many legends revolve around the Mantis our favorite is the one that says that these are little insects protect those children by guiding them to a safe place marking the path wound with their terrible hands in any case the legendary mantas have enemies that they cannot defend themselves against for a hedgehog they're just an exquisite appetizer against such a big animal their threats are useless the only thing that saves these mantises from the insectivores is that they usually have a different schedule the hedgehogs come out when it's dark outside and at night our female mantis sleeps trusting her deceptive silhouette environmental pressure on each living being provokes the phenomenon we know as survival of the fittest to select and transmit the genetic code we were sure that the female we had chosen would be a winner the only thing that remained to be seen was if our mantis would be chosen by nature in competition with other mantises like herself when they ran into each other they didn't get along but they always tried to avoid bloodshed this would be a different encounter the green mantis belongs to a different species the Eva Sora Toria it's smaller and weaker but it has a trick up its sleeve it's color mimics the eyes of someone who is much bigger no one will end up hurt as far as we know there is only one motive that triggers a fatal encounter between two praying mantises food one day as we were filming our female while hunting we realized that another female mantis was observing the scene attentively while our female hunter was devouring her booty the spice dolefully moved in distracted by the feast our Mantis was not aware of the danger hanging over her but when the ambitious thief was almost within striking distance something warned our mantis and she stepped back trying to hide behind her catch then something incredible happened the opportunist grabbed the prey of her companion suggesting an unspoken agreement they were going to share the feast threats only occurred when their two mouths met we witnessed a surprising biological performance mantises may be willing to share food instead of fighting for it this unforeseen behavior had never been described before and it showed us that this insect wasn't crueler than others and that what Fabra described in romantic terms as a greedy inclinations to cannibalism was not true in the end when the shared piece of prey was too small there was a quick struggle and a few threats and thus the uncomfortable but satiated guests withdrew our favorite mantis savor the last bite saving the most exquisite part for dessert the eyes of the spider our research had advanced much more than our most optimistic predictions and we were heading towards the culminating point of our study the relationship between individuals of the opposite sex due to the difference in size unreceptive females are able to prey on males but now we believe that this is uncommon a male-only approaches a female when trying to seduce her or when he has not detected her presence just as on this occasion what should have been a violent encounter has ended up in a tangling of legs hooks and branches perhaps the leaves of the rock Rose played in favor of the weaker one despite the male's inferior strength he took the advantage by putting the female in a headlock with a grip so tight that she could not get away the female also had her paws on him but she didn't seem to want to devour him they spent a long time like this almost an hour there were times when either one could have taken advantage of a chance to attack but perhaps because they were tired or because they weren't hungry or simply because they don't kill for pleasure they ended up separating from each other without any major damage and lived to see another day this unique fact was going to deeply change our criteria about the sexual behavior of the species when we began this investigation more than three long years ago we began with many preconceived ideas most of them came from what we had read and whose original source was the book by Father which was written more than a century ago [Applause] our first experiences in trying to film the cannibalistic population of preying mantises were very frustrated after many attempts we began to suspect that there was more legend than truth to it when we rent the original book the pieces fell together the studies have been carried out with individuals in captivity and although this is an essential way of working in order to collect certain data human manipulation can alter animal behavior after numerous field studies we began to form a new hypothesis the females do not attack their mates if the males have an escape route we compared our observations with those of several scientists dr. Iglesias Lopez wrote his doctoral thesis on the reproductive behavior of the mantis religiosa after his meticulous research and monitoring of 106 compilations over three seasons his conclusions left no room for doubt no female ate the mail during the mating process there were still some things to explain however why are the males so cautious during the courtship approach they seemed to be afraid of something fear of not being recognized perhaps the female that we all know so well has been inviting males to approach her for two days she has been constantly giving out pheromones to everyone who passes by she's seeking out the male that has received the unmistakable message this female wants you to approach come the suitor displayed himself before his conquest he was looking for confirmation that he hadn't gotten the wrong idea that this was indeed a date and so passion vibrated before her the powerful Queen offered her back as if granting him the privilege of her love in the end she took a few steps as if inviting the chase with this movement the male could not resist feminine wiles seduction a woman's weapons females don't attack their conquests during a pre-nuptial courtship either couldn't their legendary cannibalism be a simple question of hunger this could be a factor that would make it not only comprehensible but beneficial and even necessary for the females to eat the male's under certain circumstances but we were surprised however to see our protagonist stalk a grasshopper in the middle of the act of love in reality she was hungry and needed nutrients but she didn't seek them in her mate she may do with a grasshopper leg we had to imagine a better hypothesis that would explain their supposed cannibalism could it have anything to do with an excess of males in the area to our even greater perplexity two males landed nearby during this act of copulation they waited for five hours until the mating process had finished and then each one took his turn and tried his luck but the tired princess wasn't receptive anymore and still she did not act at all violently she just gave him a look that could kill the second male apparently thought he was more attractive than the first but unfortunately for him that made no difference she was already inseminated and he didn't have a chance so the abundance of males didn't seem related to sexual cannibalism either and what about jealousy this might be a good formula for natural selection the chosen females might eat their lovers to prevent other females from sharing their genes but we also found more females in the surrounding area and it didn't seem to affect them another hypothesis ruled out we saw a lot of copulations we took turns standing guard so that we wouldn't miss any opportunity to witness the act if and when it were to occur we were patient very very patient which is more typical of the praying mantis than of humans we had to watch them during four or five hour shifts until each mating process reached its climax because when they were finished and separated from one another we still hope to see the female devour the male our last hypothesis but once he had satisfied his mate the male quickly and unexpectedly withdrew and he was better off not pushing his luck the truth is that after copulation the female mantis didn't try to hunt her mate who moved away without so much as saying goodbye he was faster and had the entire field to make his getaway in an attempt to obtain more data we decided to study the beaker or MLS which they say does not develop cannibalistic behavior the male amylase does not show any fear when searching for a mate in fact he does not display any kind of apparent courtship behavior prior to copulation what's more he lies in wait chases the female and throws himself on her as if he were really hunting her she tries to shake off the daring male who once on top of his conquest won't give up but they meet during a much less heroic period of time than their relative the praying mantis they need only 15 to 20 minutes but before their time was up an inopportune male landed on top of the lovers with evil intentions with a well-studied hit he scared his rival to the point that he didn't want to continue mating then what happened next left us speechless the astute male gripped his claws around the vaginal duct of the female he seemed to hold the female's abdomen very tightly as if he were squeezing something we believe that he was trying to destroy the previous male sperm back this way the second male would be guaranteed that the genes carried by the future descendants are his and only his later the separation occurred peacefully as if the male had fulfilled his duty and didn't have to worry about being reproached every observation confirmed that these animals are not sexually cannibalistic to us it's an indisputable fact after each copulation the male's search for new conquests the females on the other hand must lay their eggs and according to their energy reserves they may take up to three weeks to do so but our mantis was very well fed she had been inseminated about 20 hours earlier and her time had come the Sun was high and the foam that would make the egg case would dry quickly thanks to the heat she chose a good place the small trunk would surely be standing next frame trusting in that she began to carefully place each one of her 200 eggs in the massive albumin and air the capsule would protect its precious content well until the following spring when a new cycle would give rise to a new story the evolutionary success of this family of insects allowed them to spread throughout the world while the continents were still together in a single landmass today crossing the oceans is an almost impossible task for most fauna but our old mantis still had one final adventure in store for us [Applause] you the explanation given for the fact that certain species of mantises have crossed the sea is that some of their egg cases must have traveled by plane or boat hidden among the baggage the nests of the mantises conceal hundreds of stowaways on board they crossed the human frontiers making them a new version of illegal immigrants I promised you an ending worthy of a thriller well as the third summer of research ended on one of the last days of filming just when we thought we knew everything about the praying mantis this happened all of our theses were thrown out the window in an unexpected way a female finally showed that cannibalistic instinct the one that we had come to believe was only the result of Legends after such a long time and so much effort dedicated to getting to know an animal it turned out that we didn't understand a thing we shouted at each other trying to understand what was going on he let her hunt him why didn't he try to escape he didn't even spread his wings the female had immobilized him and then placed him in the mating position he put up no resistance he didn't try to defend himself not even when she chewed up his jaw he only hit her frenetically with his antennae as if he were saying to her what are you doing I wanted to court you the next 40 minutes were terrible he didn't even kick didn't he feel the pain why was he still embracing and inseminating his mate in our minds we reviewed what we had read about the inhibitor gland during reproduction so it was true that the males were prepared for this to happen although it only happened once in a million could this behavior be a vestige of a past when there was a major imbalance in the ratio of males to females what role had natural selection played as our lady mantis wolf down the remainder of her lover the only thing clear to us was that our project had not ended perhaps it would never be over and what if it had all been caused by the investigative process itself the fact of studying nature implies manipulation our mere presence is not a natural factor but then how do we get close to living beings how can we satisfy our curiosity how can we learn we would have liked to contradict some of the myths that circulate regarding the animal world although what happened to father at the end of the 19th century could have happened to us but we want to observe what is not really there the behavior of insects is not easy for us to understand perhaps because we are so distant from them in genetic terms sometimes we judge what we observe to be cruel or ruthless when we immerse ourselves in the details of wildlife but as special lens is needed to understand without sentimental nonsense that the awful protagonists of our story must act like this in order to survive we have shown one reality an incomplete one to be sure and there are millions of living beings still left to be catalogued and studied what discoveries would we make and what could we learn from them this will only depend on our not losing the excessively human ability to be amazed by nature