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Mantophasmatodea (Heelwalkers): recognition

 

Karoophasma_biedouwensis

Karoophasma biedouwensis First instar nymph Photo Mike Picker

Austrophasma_caledonensis

Austrophasma caledonensis Fourth or fifth instar nymph Photo Simon van Noort/Iziko

Lobophasma_redelinghuysensis

Lobophasma redelinghuysensis Adult fecund female Photo Simon van Noort/Iziko

Mantophasmatodea can easily be mistaken for juveniles of Praying Mantids, Stick insects (order Phasmida), or Grasshoppers (order Orthoptera). The adults are only 2-3cm in length and do not have wings. Superficially they look remarkably like a nymph of a Praying Mantid (which do not have wings in the juvenile stage), except that they do not have well developed raptorial fore legs (their forelegs are somewhat enlarged). They differ from the plant feeding stick insects in that they are carnivorous, have longer antennae (with a terminal bend) and, among other characters, a head that is pointed downwards as opposed to forwards. Mantophasmatodea do not have jumping hind legs as do most grasshoppers and crickets, but are technically separated from Orthoptera based on characters present on the thorax and ovipositor. Their remarkable resemblance to juvenile stages of other insect orders is probably why this new order was overlooked for so many years. Live specimens, however, are easily recognised by their habit of keeping the last tarsal segment and enlarged pad (arolium) up in the air, and off the substrate.

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Web page development and text by Simon van Noort (Iziko South African Museum) and Mike Picker (University of Cape Town).


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