Mantophasmatodea is a suborder of carnivorous African insects discovered in 2001 (Adis et al. 2002, Klass et al. 2002). The group was originally introduced as a new insect order, but based on recent evidence indicating a sister group relationship with Grylloblattidae (formerly classified in the order Grylloblattodea) (Terry & Whiting 2005, Cameron et al. 2006), Arillo & Engel have combined the two groups into a single order, Notoptera (Arillo & Engel 2006).
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) (Zombro et al. 2002), 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 (Terry & Whiting 2005, Cameron et al. 2006). 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 (Zombro et al. 2003).
The heelwalkers (also known as gladiators) were discovered in Namibia’s Brandberg Mountains and are still living there today. They can also be found in Tanzania and western South Africa. Order Mantophasmatodea currently consists of three families and about twelve species.
Order Mantophasmatodea contains a type of insect commonly known as gladiators or heelwalkers.There are about twelve species in the order.They are all wingless.They are carnivorous, using their spiny first and second pair of legs to capture prey.They feed on flies, bark lice, and other small insects.They live in short vegetation like grass.They communicate by tapping their abdomen on a surface, which sends vibrations to another heelwalker. Sexual dimorphism and polymorphism are common. Heelwalkers undergo incomplete metamorphosis.The females lay about twelve eggs into a sand pod.The eggs hatch after seasonal rain and the nymphs grow during the wet season.They turn into adults by the end of the rainy season.They can be found in the fossil record as far back as the Jurassic.