Abstract. The previously unknown phylogenetic relationships among Mantodea (praying mantids) were inferred from DNA sequence data. Five genes (16S rDNA, 18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, cytochrome oxidase II and histone 3) were sequenced for sixty-three taxa representing major mantid lineages and outgroups. The monophyly of mantid families and subfamilies was tested under varying parameter settings using parsimony and Bayesian analyses. The analyses revealed the paraphyly of Hymenopodidae, Iridopterygidae, Mantidae, and Thespidae and the monophyly of the Amorphoscelidae subfamily Paraoxypilinae. All represented subfamilies of Iridopterygidae and Mantidae appear paraphyletic. Mantoididae is sister group to the rest of the sampled mantid taxa. Lineages congruent with current subfamilial taxonomy include Paraoxypilinae, Hoplocoryphinae, Hymenopodinae, Acromantinae and Oligonicinae. The mantid hunting strategy is defined as either generalist, cursorial or ambush predators. By mapping hunting strategy onto our phylogeny, we reconstructed the ancestral predatory condition as generalist hunting, with three independent shifts to cursorial hunting and one shift to ambush hunting, associated with the largest radiation of mantid species.