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   Location:Home > Research > Research Progress
How does orchid mantis adapt and evolve?
Author: Zhao Xin
Update time: 2023-03-29
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Researchers from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden (XTBG) recently presented the first study systematically investigating basic biological characteristics in a classic conspicuous masquerader. 

The study was featured as cover story in Evolutionary Ecology. 

Masquerade is a form of camouflage in which the masqueraders resemble inedible or inanimate objects to render themselves sensorily detectable but cognitively misclassified by predators or/and prey. Hymenopus coronatus, commonly known as orchid mantis, is the only masquerader that resembles an entire blooming flower, which makes it an excellent model of conspicuous masquerade.  

The researchers investigated the biological features of the orchid mantis, including its field abundance, life cycle, microhabitats, colour morph diversity and the key environmental factors that may affect its life cycle.They then recorded its indoor life history and colour morph flexibility.  

Both the field and the indoor results showed that the orchid mantis exhibited diversity and flexibility of colour morphs. This suggests that different life stages may have different predator–prey interactions in orchid mantis and the colour morph ontogenetic variation may maximize its fitness,said CHEN Zhanqi of XTBG. 

Furthermore, the orchid mantis did not coexist with a specific plant, which suggested that it was unlikely to resemble any specific flower but was likely to masquerade general flowers. It showed not only diverse colour morphs but also remarkable body size variations among life stages, which also obviously increased its diversity. 

In addition, the orchid mantis exhibited notable intersexual differences in body weight (heavier females), duration of development (protandry) and lifespan (females lived longer), which could be evolutionary responses for reproductive success.  

Our study is the first one to systematically investigate basic biological characteristics in a classic conspicuous masquerader. It may provide crucial information for ecologists and evolutionary biologists to interpret how conspicuous masqueraders adapt and evolve,” said CHEN Zhanqi. 



CHEN Zhanqi Ph.D Principal Investigator 

Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China     

E-mail: chenzhanqi@xtbg.ac.cn 


Orchid mantis. (Image by CHEN Zhanqi)


Orchid mantis. (Image by CHEN Zhanqi)

Published: 03 March 2023


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Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Menglun, Mengla, Yunnan 666303, China
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