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October 23rd, 2008 - Mantis in a Basket

I went up to Siah's office last night to see if I could get a look at the "baby" snakes, unfortunately they were all dug in deep in the wood chips and warming themselves. It didn't matter tho, because I couldn't get past this quizzical yet spooky-looking carnivore, a "praying mantis" which was watching me like a hawk from inside a little terrarium. 
I was fascinated by the attentiveness of this bug. He was hanging upside-down on the cover of the terrarium and as I slowly flipped it open he turned his head questioningly at me and measured me up, seemingly with an awful lot of intelligence going on behind those huge aviator goggles.
I've heard that mantids (proper term for the species as a group) can detect movement 60 feet away and I don't doubt that a bit. They are also known for their lightning-quick reflexes when grabbing their prey, which is usually moths, crickets, grasshoppers, and flies but they aren't opposed to taking on much bigger lifeforms such as mice, hummingbirds, snakes, and spiders. Guess they have never heard the adage, "Never eat anything bigger than your own head."

Mantids have such an amazingly minimalistic morphology, except for their front claws which have huge forearms even by Popeye's standards. Add to those some wicked spikes so as not to let your lunch get out of your grip. Then the triangular-shaped head allows the eyes a greater field of view, at least the two compound eyes on the corners - they also have three simple eyes between those. Not that they really need all that hardware tho, as they can turn their heads 180 degrees in either direction.  Pretty much a long-range, omni-directional visual sensory machine. 
Definitely had something to do with inspiration for Sigourney Weaver's nemesis. Or should I say offspring.

And in the "givin' it all up for you" department, the male is sometimes eaten by the female after or DURING the mating process. Being typical males tho, this hasn't yet deterred them from seeking reproduction. It's all about risk-assessment, I guess. See: "Long Brain."

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