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Temporal range: Callovian–Present
Mantophasma zephyra Zompro et al 2002.jpg
Mantophasma zephyra Zompro et al., 2002
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Notoptera
Suborder: Mantophasmatodea
Klass 2002
Family: Mantophasmatidae
Klass 2002
Subfamilies, tribes

see text

Mantophasmatidae is a family of carnivorous wingless insects within the order Notoptera, which was discovered in Africa in 2001.[1][2] Originally, the group was regarded as an order in its own right, and named Mantophasmatodea, but, using recent evidence indicating a sister group relationship with Grylloblattidae (formerly classified in the order Grylloblattodea),[3][4] Arillo and Engel have combined the two groups into a single order, Notoptera.[5]


The most common vernacular name for this order is gladiators, although they also are called rock crawlers, heelwalkers, mantophasmids, and colloquially, mantos.[6] Their modern centre of endemism is western South Africa and Namibia (Brandberg Massif),[7] although the modern relict population of Tanzaniophasma subsolana in Tanzania and Eocene fossils suggest a wider ancient distribution.

Mantophasmatodea are wingless even as adults, making them relatively difficult to identify. They resemble a cross between praying mantises and phasmids, and molecular evidence indicates that they are most closely related to the equally enigmatic group Grylloblattodea.[3][4] Initially, the gladiators were described from old museum specimens that originally were found in Namibia (Mantophasma zephyra) and Tanzania (M. subsolana), 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 zephyra was found on the Erongoberg Massif.[8]

Since then, a number of new genera and species have been discovered, the most recent being two new genera, Kuboesphasma and Minutophasma, each with a single species, described from Richtersveld in South Africa in 2018.[9]


Mantophasmatids are wingless carnivores. During courtship, they communicate using vibrations transmitted through the ground or substrate.[10]


The most recent classification[9] recognizes numerous genera, including fossils:

Unidentified mantophasmid species in the Zoologische Staatssammlung München

Some taxonomists assign full family status to the subfamilies and tribes, and sub-ordinal status to the family. In total, there are 21 extant species described as of 2018.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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
  2. ^ Adis, J., O. Zompro, E. Moombolah-Goagoses, and E. Marais. 2002. Gladiators: A new order of insect. Scientific American 287:60-65.
  3. ^ a b Terry, M.D., and M.F. Whiting. 2005. Mantophasmatodea and phylogeny of the lower neopterous insects. Cladistics 21(3): 240–257.
  4. ^ a b 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.
  5. ^ "Arillo, A. & M. Engel (2006) Rock Crawlers in Baltic Amber (Notoptera: Mantophasmatodea). American Museum Novitates 3539:1-10" (PDF).
  6. ^ "Biodiversity Explorer: Mantophasmatodea". Iziko. Retrieved 30 June 2018.
  7. ^ Zompro, O.; Adis, J.; Weitschat, W. (2002). "A review of the order Mantophasmatodea (Insecta)". Zoologischer Anzeiger. 241 (3): 269–279. doi:10.1078/0044-5231-00080.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b c Wipfler, B; Theska, T; Predel, R (2018). "Mantophasmatodea from the Richtersveld in South Africa with description of two new genera and species". ZooKeys (746): 137–160. doi:10.3897/zookeys.746.14885. PMC 5904538. PMID 29674900.
  10. ^ Randall, J. A. (2014). "Vibrational Communication: Spiders to Kangaroo Rats". Biocommunication of Animals: 103–133. doi:10.1007/978-94-007-7414-8_7. ISBN 978-94-007-7413-1.
  11. ^ Huang, Di-ying; Nel, André; Zompro, Oliver; Waller, Alain (2008-06-11). "Mantophasmatodea now in the Jurassic". Naturwissenschaften. 95 (10): 947–952. doi:10.1007/s00114-008-0412-x. ISSN 0028-1042. PMID 18545982. S2CID 35408984.
  12. ^ 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. doi:10.1007/s13127-010-0037-8

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