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Short description: Family of praying mantises

EMPUSE-Empusa pennata-PICT0231 1.jpg
Empusa pennata
Scientific classification e
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Mantodea
Family: Empusidae
Burmeister, 1838

Empusidae is a family of plant-mimicking mantises[1] (see Mantodea), consisting of 10 genera, in two subfamilies.[2] Unlike many other mantis families, the Empusidae are a monophyletic lineage.[1][3][4] Empusidae mantises are ambush predators,[4] with mouthparts adapted to feeding on other insects and small animals.[3] The majority of Empusidae species are distributed throughout Africa, but they are also found in Southeast Asia and in the southern parts of Europe.[5]

Natural history

The Empusidae species Gongylus gongylodes (Linné, 1758)[1] was the first mantis species ever to be described. Since Gongylus mantises have been fascinating entomologists and have been bred in captivity for a long time, their behavior and breeding preferences are well known, such as a defensive behavior of displaying a hissing noise by rubbing the anterior edges of its serrated fore wings to the femur of the hind legs.[1]


The about 28 species of empusid mantis[2] are all relatively large and bizarre looking. The prothorax is always surrounded by a crest and the femur of the middle and hind legs often have flap-like appendages. The pronotum is characteristically elongated and the abdomen is often lobed.[5] Members of the Mantoidea superfamily possess a cyclopean ear, an organ situated on the metathorax, which has been proven to be an adaptation to bat predation. The presence of this adaptation has been dated to originate in the early Eocene.[6]


The Empusidae belong to the superfamily Hymenopoidea, together with the Hymenopodidae.[6] Phylogenetic studies place the Empusidae as a sister group to the Hymenopodidae. The Empusidae and Hymenopodidae are, in turn, placed as sister groups to all other ambush mantises.[4]

The latest phylogeny was revised by Svenson et al. 2015.[1] The Mantodea Species File currently includes two subfamilies:[2]


  1. Blepharodes Bolivar, 1890
  2. Blepharopsis Rehn, 1902


This subfamily is divided into two tribes:


subtribe Empusina
  1. Dilatempusa Roy, 2004
  2. Empusa Illiger, 1798
  3. Gongylus Thunberg, 1815
  4. Hypsicorypha Krauss, 1892
subtribe Idolomorphina
  1. Chopardempusa Paulian, 1958
  2. Hemiempusa Saussure & Zehntner, 1895
  3. Idolomorpha Burmeister, 1838


  1. Idolomantis Uvarov, 1940

Historical findings

In 2017-2018, a rock carving of an Empusidae with raptorial forearms was revealed in the Teimareh rock art site in the Khomeyn County, Iran. An engraved, insect-like image has a 14-cm length and 11-cm width with two circles at its sides which probably dates 40,000–4,000 years back. This motif is analogous to the famous 'squatter man' petroglyph encountered at several locations around the world.[7][8][9][10]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Svenson, Gavin J., et al. "Of flowers and twigs: phylogenetic revision of the plant‐mimicking praying mantises (Mantodea: Empusidae and Hymenopodidae) with a new suprageneric classification." Systematic Entomology 40.4 (2015)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Mantodea Species File, 2023. Retrieved 11 January 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Khokhar, Jawaid A., and N. M. Soomro. "A Comparative Study of Structural Adaptations of Mouthparts in Mantodea From Sindh." Pakistan J. Zool 41.1 (2009): 21-27.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Svenson, Gavin J., and Michael F. Whiting. "Phylogeny of Mantodea based on molecular data: evolution of a charismatic predator." Systematic Entomology 29.3 (2004): 359-370.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ehrmann, Reinhard. Mantodea Gottesanbeterinnen der Welt. Natur und Tier, 2002.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Grimaldi, David and Michael S. Engel. Evolution of the Insects. Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  7. Kolnegari, Mahmood; Naserifard, Mohammad; Hazrati, Mandana; Shelomi, Matan (2020-03-13). "Squatting (squatter) mantis man: A prehistoric praying mantis petroglyph in Iran" (in en). Journal of Orthoptera Research 29 (1): 41–44. doi:10.3897/jor.29.39400. ISSN 1937-2426. 
  8. "Ancient mantis-man petroglyph discovered in Iran" (in en). 
  9. "Ancient mantis-man petroglyph discovered in Iran" (in en). 
  10. "'Mantis-man' describes puzzling petroglyph found in Iran" (in en). 2020-03-17. 

External links

Wikidata ☰ Q376891 entry