Plants and Animals

New Mantis Species Discovered In Cretaceous Ambers

January 10, 2016 | by Janet Fang

Photo credit: Burmantis zherikhini. Scale bars: 1 millimeter. Photo by Bill Crighton. X. Delclòs et al., Cretaceous Research 2016

New specimens of extinct mantises have been discovered in Lower Cretaceous amber from what’s now Lebanon, Spain, and Myanmar. Two of them are previously unknown species. The findings are published in the May 2016 issue of Cretaceous Research

There are about 2,400 species and 434 genera of mantises, and they’re typically found in warm biomes such as African deserts and Asian rainforests. These predators have large eyes, raptorial forelegs, and a distinctive stance. 

Xavier Delclòs of Universitat de Barcelona and colleagues analyzed amber-bearing fossil deposits from the San Just outcrop of Teruel in Spain, Al-Rihan near the Hasroun village in southern Lebanon, and the Noije Bum Hills in the Hukawng Valley of Burma (Myanmar). The Lebanese and Spanish forms are immature nymphs, while the one from Myanmar is an adult.

The Spanish specimen represents a new genus and species. It has a row of eight stout, short spines on its forelegs, and its midlegs are covered with fine, scale-like microsculptures. Large compound eyes with dimensions of 0.76 by 0.68 millimeters protrude from the head. They named it Aragonimantis aenigma. Aragón is the name of the community where the fossil site is located, and the Latin “aenigma” refers to how the researchers are still unable to assign it to a known family. This specimen is the first record of Mesozoic mantises from western-European amber deposits.

The Lebanese nymph from transparent, lightly yellow amber is a new specimen of the species Burmantis lebanensis, which was first described in 2003. The Burmese specimen from transparent, lightly red amber is a new species in that same genus. The team named it Burmantis zherikhini (pictured above), in honor of the late Vladimir V. Zherikhin’s contributions to the study of fossil mantises and Burmese amber. Its large, bulbous compound eyes have dimensions of 1.07 by 0.56 millimeters, and it’s the first known adult specimen of this genus. 

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