The Embrace of the Mantisby@scientificamerican

The Embrace of the Mantis

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Mr. Addison Ellsworth favors us with a transcript of a letter from Mr. Albert D. Rust, of Ennis, Ellis County, Texas, describing a remarkable exhibition of copulative cannibalism on the part of the mantis. The ferocious nature of these strange insects is well known, and is in striking contrast with the popular name, "praying mantis," which they have gained by the pious attitude they take while watching for the flies and other insects which they feed upon. About sunrise, August 28, 1880, Mr. Rust's attention was attracted by a pair of mantis, whether Mantis religiosa or not, he was not sure, but from the length of the body and the shortness of the wings he was inclined to think them of some other species. The female had her arms tightly clasped around the head of the male, while his left arm was around her neck. Mr. Rust watched intently to see whether the embrace was one of war or for copulation. It proved to be both. As the two abdomens began to approach each other the female made a ferocious attack upon the male, greedily devouring his head, a part of the body, and all the arm that had encircled her neck. A moment after the eating began, Mr. Rust observed a complete union of the sexual organs, and the eating and copulation went on together. On being forcibly separated the female exhibited signs of fear at her headless mate, and it was with difficulty that they were brought together again. On being suddenly tossed upon the back of the female the male seized her with a grasp from which she could not extricate herself, and immediately the sexual union was renewed, to all appearances as perfectly as before.

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