Predatory pollinator deception: Does the orchid mantis resemble a model species?

J. C. O'hanlon, G. I. Holwell, M. E. Herberstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Cases of imperfect or non-model mimicry are common in plants and animals and challenge intuitive assumptions about the nature of directional selection on mimics. Many non-rewarding flower species do not mimic a particular species, but attract pollinators through 'generalised food deception'. Some predatory animals also attract pollinators by resembling flowers, perhaps the most well known, yet least well understood, is the orchid mantis Hymenopus coronatus. This praying mantis has been hypothesised to mimic a flower corolla and we have previously shown that it attracts and captures pollinating insects as prey. Predatory pollinator deception is relatively unstudied and whether this occurs through model mimicry or generalised food deception in the orchid mantis is unknown. To test whether the orchid mantis mimics a specific model flower species we investigated similarities between its morphology and that of flowers in its natural habitat in peninsular Malaysia. Geometric morphometrics were used to compare the shape of mantis femoral lobes to flower petals. Physiological vision models were used to compare the colour of mantises and flowers from the perspective of bees, flies and birds. We did not find strong evidence for a specific model flower species for the orchid mantis. The mantis' colour and shape varied within the range of that exhibited by many flower petals rather than resembling one type in particular. We suggest that the orchid mantis resembles an average, or generalised flower-like stimulus. Thus predatory pollinator deception in the orchid mantis is likely to function as a form of generalised food deception, as opposed to model mimicry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-103
Number of pages14
JournalCurrent Zoology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


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