GREEN

Elusive Orchid Mantis Lures Its Prey With Incredible Flower Disguise (VIDEO)

12/27/2013 12:38 pm ET | Updated Feb 24, 2014

You might have to do a double-take before realizing this beautiful flower is not what it seems.

It is actually a brilliantly camouflaged insect called a Malaysian orchid mantis, also known as Hymenopus coronatus.

It is famous for taking on the colors and shape of an orchid to lure its prey, and according to the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums (WAZA), the mantis gets its final color (white or pink) after a few sheds.

Males have a brownish-purple "necklace," while females sport a green one. WAZA says female orchid mantises can reach a length of about six centimeters and have six abdominal segments. The green "necklace" and size of the mantis in the video indicates that it is female.

Though it's obvious that the mantis looks like a flower, the reason why is not so clear.

In the 1800s, naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace first suggested that the insect was a mimic of the orchid, and believed its appearance to be a result of natural selection and evolution. Wallace's theories went unconfirmed for a century, however, in part, because of how rare the creature is.

It's no surprise that the elusive mantis is extremely hard to spot even in its natural habitat in the rainforests of Southeast Asia.

Today, Wallace's ideas have been applied by James O'Hanlon, an evolutionary biologist at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, who traveled to Malaysia to study the insects.

"This is the only animal in the world that we know of that resembles a flower blossom to attract prey," O'Hanlon told LiveScience. "There are other animals that are known to camouflage amongst flowers and ambush prey items, but they do not actually attract the pollinators themselves -- the flowers they sit on are the attractive stimulus. The orchid mantis is unique in that the mantis itself is the attractive stimulus. This means the mantis can sit away from flowers, perhaps on leaves or bark, and still lure in pollinators."

All the mantis has to do is wait for prey to approach her attractive pink and white body before going for the kill.

Also on HuffPost:

Suggest a correction
Comments

CONVERSATIONS