How a praying mantis hunts; How far can we see
What hunting methods does a praying mantis use to catch food?
Ry, New Hampshire, USA
stands squarely on her stable four-point foundation, hidden among leaves, and lurking in ambush.
Her formidable hunting aids — compound eyes and spring-loaded, raptorial
festooned with spikes — ready for the strike. Photo
courtesy of Shiva Shankar and Wikipedia, taken in southern India.
A: A small red caterpillar crawls blithely across the great, green expanse of
leaf, unaware of the killing machine he nears. The praying mantis,
poised, also on the leaf, her
camouflaged four twig-like legs spread out for stability, watches intently.
The end of her green abdomen curls up for balance; her forelimbs are cocked,
ironically indicating prayer. She leans toward the caterpillar.
She sways slightly like a leaf in a gentle breeze. Her great
triangular head swings on the stubby neck, tracking the clueless caterpillar.
"The neck is quite short, but unusually flexible so the head can turn,"
John Meyer, professor at North Carolina State University.
She leans farther
forward and lower still. Suddenly, the strike — too fast for
eye to follow — and she's got him. She
pinches her prey between segments of her raptorial legs, the spines biting in,
pinning the squirming caterpillar, and eats delicately.
"With its excellent eyesight, patience and use of cryptic behavior, the
mantis strikes with amazing speed at almost any animal its size, even small
birds!" says Dan Feldman of the Colorado State University entomology department.
"The mantid [mantis] uses two primary hunting methods," Feldman says. It usually
waits "motionless" until prey "comes within strike range" or, occasionally, pursues,
in fluid slow motion, its hapless target until it gets within range.
The strike takes "30 to 50 thousandths of a second."
Praying mantises and mantis shrimp, though evolved along entirely different
paths, share the same spring-like strike mechanism. Each stores energy in
the leg or claw muscles and then releases it in a flash like a sprung
jack-in-the-box. This way, they achieve blurring speeds and great power — enough to shatter aquarium glass, in the case of
the tiny mantis shrimp.
Praying mantises eat practically anything; one researcher (Frederick Prete)
documented twenty-one species of insects, turtles, mice, frogs,
birds and newts. Typically they eat cockroach-type insects, and dote on
soft-bodied insects like flies.
Over 1800 species dot the world, but most are concentrated in tropical regions.
Africa boasts 880 species, Asia 530, Oceania 165, the Americas 410 and Europe
24. North America has 20 species, bunched (8) in Arizona. The adults
in North America range in length from 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm). A Sri Lankan
species grows up to 10 inches (25 cm).
Mantis shrimp spring into shattering action, WonderQuest
Compound eyes by John Meyer, North Carolina State University
Bug bytes by John Meyer, North Carolina State University
The praying mantis by Dan Feldman, Colorado State University
Praying mantis makes a meal of a hummer, Bird Watcher's Digest
International Wildlife encyclopedia, edited by Maurice Burton and Robert
Prete, Frederick R. "Configural Prey Recognition…" Brain Behavior Evolution v3
giant Asian praying mantis by exboyz04, YouTube
If I am on the ground, how many miles away is the horizon?
Cheris13, Goose Creek, South Carolina
see a mountain from afar. Drawing by author, Earth photo by NASA.
A: It depends what's on the horizon. The higher the object, the farther away
we can see it.
It's a cold winter's day here in Albuquerque, and I can see the sun shining
on snow-capped Sangre de Cristo mountains, nestled on the horizon, about 75
miles (120 km) away. Actually, these mountains rise about 8000 feet
(2500 m) above terrain, so I can go farther away and still see them. In fact, I
should be able to see them from 120 miles (190 km), neglecting the effects of
With nothing rising tall on the horizon, it's a different story. My eyes are
about 5 feet 3 inches (1.6 m) above the ground, so I can see across flat terrain — plains or mesa — or an ocean, only about 3 miles (5 km), again
neglecting the effects of atmosphere.
Looking out the window of a high-flying jet, how far away is the horizon?
is the horizon? Boat Safe Kids
Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Wikipedia
(Answered Jan. 22, 2006)
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