ScienceShot: The Deadly Allure of the Exotic

ScienceShot: The Deadly Allure of the Exotic

Murray Fea

Males of a praying mantis native to New Zealand, Orthodera novaezealandiae, are more attracted to the cannibalistic females of an invasive species introduced in the 1970s, Miomantis caffra, than they are to the noncannibal females of their own kind, a new study suggests. In lab tests, a native male (smaller mantis in image) was placed in a Y-shaped maze whose branches contained a female of one species or the other. At the fork in the road, the male turned toward the invasive female in 11 out of 13 trials, researchers report online today in Biology Letters. Female mantises attract mates using odorous chemicals called pheromones, and the invaders’ pheromones may be more alluring or more abundantly released than the natives', the scientists speculate. In other tests in which researchers left an M. caffra female with a native male for 16 hours, the males were killed and eaten almost 69% of the time. The oft-fatal attraction may explain why the native species is apparently in decline where the species coexist, the researchers say.

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