We share the world with all sorts of animals. Some are covered with tight coils of fur, while some are finely-scaled. Some have adapted colorful appearances to frighten enemies or attract mates, and some don't care about these flamboyant animals at all because they are unfortunately color-blind, like dogs. The continents support a staggering array of species while the ocean is home to even more. However, there is one animal that shines above its brethren. An animal whose good-nature and playful spirit bring joy to children and adults alike throughout at least a few parts of the world. A creature whose beauty and warrior-like spirit have doubtlessly inspired whole societies to do impressive societal things. I am, of course, referring to the distinguished praying mantis.
Now, I know what you're thinking, something along the lines of, "totally, warrior spirit, they definitely have that." But you may also be wondering, why now? Six months and nothing then suddenly, without pretext, I am writing about the praying mantis. Well, it happens that a few weeks ago I noticed a young mantis apparently in the midst of an expedition across my wall, his large forearms pulling him quickly across the textured surface with the strange gait that such large, oddly-jointed appendages always cause. I watched him with curiosity, having never seen one so close. He settled upon the edge of my laundry basket and seemed content to lounge there occasionally turning his elongated head to give alert eyes a direct line of sight, the eyes of a mantis being located on either side of its head. I thought I should make some sort of gesture of friendship and scanned my room for one of the many crickets that have recently invaded my apartment. As if volunteering, one appeared in front of me just I as finished my thought. I hastily snatched him up and set him atop the basket, near the mantis. Within minutes the cricket was in the mantid's grasp, his chest pierced by powerful, raptorial limbs. Needless to say, I was quite impressed with this display and bought a small plastic tank for him and, with a stick and a leaf to recreate what he's used to, I ushered him into his temporary home.
Let me quickly throw some mantis facts at you as quoted from some guy name Dan Feldman who wrote a brief and unintentionally hilarious research paper on the praying mantis.
"With an estimated 1800 species of mantids that cover the whole world, the mantis has become a prevalent and often revered part of human life." -yes
"In Arab and Turkish cultures a mantis was thought to point toward Mecca, a site of considerable religious interest." -naturally
"Ears occur in 60% of mantids" -I find this both hilarious and enlightening.
"The mantis is an auditory cyclops"-band name?
So as you can see Dan did his research and it is undeniably interesting, in fact, I think it should be used to teach children to read. Now that you are suitably educated about this fascinating creature let me return to my story.
I gave my mantis a name, Mantis, and tossed him a cricket when I was able to catch one. He was generally slow in capturing his prey and I tired of waiting quickly so I only saw him eat once but it was brutal. The mantis waited patiently on the ceiling of the tank until the unsuspecting cricket jumped to a twig that lay directly below him. He stuck quick and the cricket escaped but only by leaping so frantically that he left one of his legs in the inexorable grip of the predator. Undeterred the mantis moved fluidly to the corner of the tank where the cricket sat, the leg still in his right hand. Looking down at the tiny insect the mantis ate half of the cricket's leg while the cricket sat stupified no more than an inch away. I have to admit, I was a little shocked myself.
A few days after the mantis showed up I went on a three-day trip to Hiroshima. Knowing my own feelings regarding being left alone in a tank for three days without food, even if there is a stick and a leaf, I set the tank on my porch with the lid open and bid him farewell. I explored Hiroshima and the nearby island of Miyajima and when I returned home exhausted I had nearly forgotten my mantid companion. Thus I was surprised when days later he appeared, resting casually on my screen door. I considered it a sign of friendship and resolved to leave him be and there he has stayed ever since, silently keeping me company.