Insect hunger games: Male mantises deceived by starving females

Kate1177/Mantis Study Group/Creative Commons

Insect hunger games: Male mantises deceived by starving females

A well-fed female mantis is irresistible to a male. She’s chock-full of eggs and draws him in by producing high levels of pheromones. Now, a new study reveals that starving females can deceive males by enticing them to their doom. Researchers have found that female false garden mantises (Pseudomantis albofimbriata, pictured) that were fed just a quarter of what others got actually produced more pheromones than well-fed females—and attracted almost twice the number of males. This is despite the fact that the number of eggs in the starved females was less than 10, compared with more than 60 eggs in well-fed females. The finding, reported online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first experimental demonstration of sexual deception using false chemical signals in any animal. The starving females seem to be treating the males as easy prey to gain nutritional benefits and potentially produce more eggs.

*Correction, 17 December, 3:59 p.m.: This item originally stated that fully fed female mantises are also cannibalistic. We have changed the text to reflect that they are not.

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