It’s long been known that praying mantises are formidable predators. There’s that mate-eating thing, for starters. But although they usually eat flies and similar insects, they also snatch lizards, frogs, newts, mice, snakes, turtles, and even, as I vividly described last year, the very birds from the air.

But now it seems the mighty mantis has conquered yet another frontier. In a rooftop garden in Karnataka, India on the March 7, 2017, a male praying mantis sat perched on a lily pad, studying the water below. According to the human who witnessed the scene, it snatched a guppy from the water and ate it. Within half an hour, it snatched another and consumed it too.

Despite the insect's compound eyes, despite the visually-confusing refractive properties of the air-water interface, despite the fact it was always night and not day (in which the eyes of most mantids are adapted to see best), the mantis had no problem ensuring a fish dinner. And it did so again for another four nights, eating a total of nine and wiping out nearly one-quarter of the fish in the container. Then it disappeared.

Is this the first mantis to fish? Or have others of its kind also perfected this skill, and humans have just never noticed? In either case, we clearly have underestimated the abilities of those big, beady, raptorial eyes. It seems there’s little of comparable size that a praying mantis won’t attempt to eat. Their name belies the fact that it's everyone else that should be doing the praying.

Reference

Battiston, Roberto, Rajesh Puttaswamaiah, and Nayak Manjunath. "The fishing mantid: predation on fish as a new adaptive strategy for praying mantids (Insecta: Mantodea)." Journal of Orthoptera Research 27 (2018): 155.