The Roles of Colour and Shape in Pollinator Deception in the Orchid Mantis Hymenopus coronatus


  • James C. O'Hanlon

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW, Australia
    • Correspondence

      James C. O'Hanlon, Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, 2109 NSW, Australia.


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The orchid mantis Hymenopus coronatus (Insecta: Mantodea) is a deceptive predator that attracts pollinators as prey. Their resemblance to a flower has given rise to the hypothesis that they are flower mimics. However, floral mimicry as a predatory strategy, and in particular, how predatory floral mimicry functions at a mechanistic level is poorly understood. Two main morphological characteristics are thought to make orchid mantises appear similar to flowers and thus attractive to pollinators: (1) their ‘flower-like’ white colouration and (2) their ‘petal-shaped’ expansions of exoskeleton on their mid-femur and hind femur (femoral lobes). I investigated the contribution of these colour and shape characteristics to pollinator attraction using artificial orchid mantis models. Models with the ‘flower-like’ white colouration of the orchid mantis had higher rates of pollinator inspection than brown models. Manipulating overall body shape by removing or changing the orientation of the ‘petal-shaped’ femoral lobes did not affect the attractiveness of models. As certain flower-like characteristics (symmetry and petals) did not affect the attractiveness of models, pollinators may not necessarily cognitively misclassify orchid mantises as flowers. Rather, mantises may be exploiting sensory biases of their pollinator prey, and their UV-absorbing white colouration may be sufficient to lure pollinators. The effectiveness of using artificial models established here provides a basis for future research into orchid mantis morphology and the fine-scale interactions between orchid mantises and pollinators.