Prize fighter

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QROBERT ERASMUS from Pre­to­ria writes: I no­ticed this pray­ing man­tis on a ta­ble in the Dikhololo Game Re­serve near Brits one morn­ing. I thought it was eat­ing some­thing, but when I en­larged the photo later I no­ticed there seemed to be other in­sects on each of its front legs. Th­ese in­sects looked like lice, but surely they’re too big to be lice?

AEn­to­mol­o­gist DUN­CAN MACFADYEN says: Those aren’t lice; they’re the en­larged front legs of the man­tid. This is a male boxer man­tis – it gets its name by the way it moves its front legs to com­mu­ni­cate. There’s a the­ory that the white coloura­tion and ab­domen shape of this species matches fresh bird drop­pings, and thus aids cam­ou­flage. It’s an am­bush preda­tor, more abun­dant in the arid parts of the coun­try, and of­ten over­looked as it scut­tles about on the bark of trees.

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