Any of more than 1,500 species of the insect suborder Mantodea (order Orthoptera). The long-bodied, slow-moving mantis (or mantid) eats only living insects, using its large forelimbs to capture and hold its struggling prey. The female is likely to eat the male after mating. The European Mantis religiosa and the Chinese mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis) have been introduced to North America. The latter grows to 3–8 in. (8–20 cm) long. The name mantis (“diviner”) reflects an ancient Greek belief in its supernatural powers.
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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.
Sometimes the subfamilies and tribes are all raised to full family status.