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J Exp Biol. 2008 Feb;211(Pt 4):555-62. doi: 10.1242/jeb.005736.

Free-flight encounters between praying mantids (Parasphendale agrionina) and bats (Eptesicus fuscus).

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA. triblehornj@missouri.edu


Through staged free-flight encounters between echolocating bats and praying mantids, we examined the effectiveness of two potential predator-evasion behaviors mediated by different sensory modalities: (1) power dive responses triggered by bat echolocation detected by the mantis ultrasound-sensitive auditory system, and (2) ;last-ditch' maneuvers triggered by bat-generated wind detected by the mantis cercal system. Hearing mantids escaped more often than deafened mantids (76% vs 34%, respectively; hearing conveyed 42% advantage). Hearing mantis escape rates decreased when bat attack sequences contained very rapid increases in pulse repetition rates (escape rates <40% for transition slopes >16 p.p.s. 10 ms(-1); escape rates >60% for transition slopes <16 p.p.s. 10 ms(-1)). This suggests that echolocation attack sequences containing very rapid transitions (>16 p.p.s. 10 ms(-1)) could circumvent mantis/insect auditory defenses. However, echolocation attack sequences containing such transitions occurred in only 15% of the trials. Since mantis ultrasound-mediated responses are not 100% effective, cercal-mediated evasive behaviors triggered by bat-generated wind could be beneficial as a backup/secondary system. Although deafened mantids with functioning cerci did not escape more often than deafened mantids with deactivated cerci (35% vs 32%, respectively), bats dropped mantids with functioning cerci twice as frequently as mantids with deactivated cerci. This latter result was not statistically reliable due to small sample sizes, since this study was not designed to fully evaluate this result. It is an interesting observation that warrants further investigation, however, especially since these dropped mantids always survived the encounter.

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