The rainforests of the world are places of incredibly diverse, mysterious, and beautiful animals. Often times a lot of what we consider biologically impossible does in fact occur in the tropics. Part of this is due to the fact that rainforests are areas of almost unchanging plant and animal growth. They’re ancient places that don’t experience drastic climate change, and as a result, organisms are granted a stable environment that allows for hyper-specialization. What this means: there are animals in the rainforest that look and do things we can’t even imagine. Hymenopus coronatus, or the orchid mantis, is one such example of hyper-specialization. Hymenopus is an interesting case of both crypsis and aggressive mimicry. It looks exactly like a Phalaeonopsis orchid blossom, and will even perch in a such a way that better mimics the shape. When threatened, it falls to the forest floor like an old flower blossom. However, while appearance helps it avoid detection from predators, it’s also used to lure in prey items. Hymenopus can reflect UV light off of its body, giving off a pattern exactly like that of orchid blossoms. In fact, studies have shown its more reflective than real flower blossoms, meaning Hymenopus doesn’t need to be near flowers to hunt. In addition to this, Hymenopus also has an additional tool. Large juvenile females have been found to release a communication pheromone, typically used by Apis cerana, the oriental honeybee. This pheromone actually brings the bee to the mantis, where it is then grabbed out of the air and devoured. By employing both chemical and aggressive mimicry, Hymenopus is able to readily prey upon nectar feeding insects!
The Malaysian rainforests have millions of colorful and beautiful animals of all shapes and sizes along with predators that have adapted to be the best and most complex hunters the world has ever seen. One of those complex, yet small, hunters would be the Orchid mantids, Hymenopus coronatus. These food mimicking insects are the only in the world that use their whole body to attract prey. They can possess a variety of natural colors ranging from whitish yellow to bright pink. They use these colors to attract pollinators in the area and trick them into thinking they are flowers. What's also amazing is that these mantids have a crystalline structure in their exoskeleton that reflects UV light more than normal flowers, making them even more enticing to the average pollinator. This mimicry not only attracts its prey, but its able to mask itself from birds and other larger predators that don't focus on plants. Many birds have incredible eyesight and will scan the forest for holes in leaves or misshapen leaves to find insects. However, orchid mantids can position themselves into the shape of tropical flowers in order to fit in seamless with its habitat. However, male orchid mantids struggle with this because of their incredibly small size (when compared to the female) and will often hunt or use flowers to attract their prey. They are active hunters, they are diurnal which means they are active during the day and night. At night orchid mantids are able to tint their compound eyes to receive lower wavelengths of light giving them, in a way, night vision. Mantids have 5 eyes, two large compound eyes that see motion, distances and images and three simple eyes which detect light. FUNFACT??!?!? A rule of thumb for many insects is the larger an insect is the more likely its a female. (Unless it has large mandibles) This is because the female needs to be able to produce eggs and be strong to protect itself from other predators!?!? #Hymenopuscoronatus
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