praying mantid

Mantophasmatodea is a suborder of African carnivorous insects discovered in 2002, originally considered to be a new order, but since relegated to subordinal status, and comprising the single family Mantophasmatidae. The most common vernacular name for this order is gladiators, although they are also called rock crawlers, heelwalkers, mantophasmids, and, coloquially, mantos. Their modern centre of endemism is western South Africa and Namibia (Brandberg Massif ), although a relict population and Eocene fossil suggest a wider ancient distribution.

Members of the order are wingless even as adults, making them relatively difficult to identify. They resemble a mix between praying mantids and phasmids, and molecular evidence indicates that they are most closely related to the equally enigmatic group Grylloblattodea, with which they have now been grouped together in the order Notoptera. The gladiators were initially described from old museum specimens that were originally found in Namibia (Mantophasma zephyrum) and Tanzania (M. subsolanum), and from a 45-million-year-old specimen of Baltic amber (Raptophasma kerneggeri).

Live specimens were found in Namibia by an international expedition in early 2002; Tyrannophasma gladiator was found on the Brandberg Massif, and Mantophasma zephyrum was found on the Erongoberg Massif.


The most recent classification recognizes numerous genera, including fossils:

Sometimes the subfamilies and tribes are all raised to full family status.


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