The Mantophasmatodea was described as an entirely new Order of insects (a rank equivalent to, for example, beetles or termites or mayflies) in 2002 (Klass et al. 2002). However, the question of what rank is used for a particular taxon is somewhat subjective and some investigators have concluded that this group is more appropriately recognized with a different rank, such as a family (Mantophasmatidae) within another Order rather than as a distinct Order. One problem with this approach, however, is that phylogenetic studies have so far indicated, variously, that this group is most closely allied with the Phasmatodea, the Mantodea, and the Grylloblattodea, making it still uncertain which Order would include the Mantophasmatidae (Cameron et al. 2006 and references therein; Damgaard et al. 2008 and references therein). Although mantophasmatids have only been discovered recently, explorations in the field in Africa (and in old museum collections) have led to the recognition of nearly two dozen species (Damgaard et al. 2008).
Eberhard and Picker (2008) studied vibrational communication in two sympatric species of mantophasmatids.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
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Mantophasmatidae are a carnivorous African suborder of insects in the order Notoptera, discovered in 2001. Originally they were regarded as an order in their own right, and named Mantophasmatodea, but based on recent evidence indicating a sister group relationship with Grylloblattidae (formerly classified in the order Grylloblattodea), Arillo & Engel have combined the two groups into a single order, Notoptera.
The most common vernacular name for this order is gladiators, although they also are called rock crawlers, heelwalkers, mantophasmids, and colloquially, mantos. Their modern centre of endemism is western South Africa and Namibia (Brandberg Massif), although a relict population, and Eocene fossils suggest a wider ancient distribution.
Mantophasmatodea are wingless even as adults, making them relatively difficult to identify. They resemble a mix between praying mantids and phasmids, and molecular evidence indicates that they are most closely related to the equally enigmatic group Grylloblattodea. The gladiators initially were described from old museum specimens that originally were found in Namibia (Mantophasma zephyrum) and Tanzania (M. subsolanum), and from a 45-million-year-old specimen of Baltic amber (Raptophasma kerneggeri).
Live specimens were found in Namibia by an international expedition in early 2002; Tyrannophasma gladiator was found on the Brandberg Massif, and Mantophasma zephyrum was found on the Erongoberg Massif.
The most recent classification recognizes numerous genera, including fossils:
- Basal and incertae sedis
- Subfamily Tanzaniophasmatinae
- Genus Tanzaniophasma Klass, Picker, Damgaard, van Noort, Tojo, 2003
- Subfamily Mantophasmatinae
- Tribe Tyrannophasmatini
- Tribe Mantophasmatini Zompro, Klass, Kristensen, Adis, 2002 (paraphyletic?)
- Tribe Austrophasmatini Klass, Picker, Damgaard, van Noort, Tojo, 2003
- Genus Viridiphasma Eberhard, Picker, Klass, 2011
- Genus Austrophasma Klass, Picker, Damgaard, van Noort, Tojo, 2003
- Genus Hemilobophasma Klass, Picker, Damgaard, van Noort, Tojo, 2003
- Genus Karoophasma Klass, Picker, Damgaard, van Noort, Tojo, 2003
- Genus Lobatophasma Klass, Picker, Damgaard, van Noort, Tojo, 2003 (formerly Lobophasma)
- At least 3 species of one or more new genera
Sometimes the subfamilies and tribes are all raised to full family status.
- Arillo, A. & M. Engel (2006) Rock Crawlers in Baltic Amber (Notoptera: Mantophasmatodea). American Museum Novitates 3539:1-10
- K.-D. Klass, O. Zompro, N.P. Kristensen, J. Adis. Mantophasmatodea: a new insect order with extant members in the afrotropics Science, 296 (2002), pp. 1456–1459
- Adis, J., O. Zompro, E. Moombolah-Goagoses, and E. Marais. 2002. Gladiators: A new order of insect. Scientific American 287:60-65.
- Terry, M.D., and M.F. Whiting. 2005. Mantophasmatodea and phylogeny of the lower neopterous insects. Cladistics 21(3): 240–257.
- S. L. Cameron, S. C. Barker & M. F. Whiting (2006). "Mitochondrial genomics and the new insect order Mantophasmatodea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (1): 274–279. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.09.020. PMID 16321547.
- Zompro, O.; Adis, J.; Weitschat, W. 2002. A review of the order Mantophasmatodea (Insecta). Zoologischer Anzeiger 241: 269–279.
- Zompro, O.; Adis, J.; Bragg, P.E.; Naskrecki, P.; Meakin, K.; Wittneben, M.; Saxe, V. (2003). "A new genus and species of Mantophasmatidae (Insecta: Mantophasmatodea) from the Brandberg Massif, Namibia, with notes on behaviour". Cimbebasia 19: 13–24.
- Eberhard, MJB, MD Picker and KD Klass. (2011). Sympatry in Mantophasmatodea, with the description of a new species and phylogenetic considerations. Organisms Diversity & Evolution 11(1): 43-59.
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