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Temporal range: Jurassic - Recent
Mantophasma zephyra Zompro et al 2002.jpg
Mantophasma zephyrum Zompro et al., 2002
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Subclass: Pterygota
Infraclass: Neoptera
Superorder: Exopterygota
Order: Notoptera[1]
Arillo & Engel, 2006
Suborder: Mantophasmatodea
Family: Mantophasmatidae
Subfamilies, tribes

see text

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


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),[6] 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.[4][5] Initially, the gladiators 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.[7]


Mantophasmatids are wingless carnivores. They engage in courtship through seismic communication.[8]


The most recent classification[1] recognizes numerous genera, including fossils:

Some taxonomists assign full family status to the subfamilies and tribes, and sub-ordinal status to the family.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Arillo, A. & M. Engel (2006) Rock Crawlers in Baltic Amber (Notoptera: Mantophasmatodea). American Museum Novitates 3539:1-10
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ Adis, J., O. Zompro, E. Moombolah-Goagoses, and E. Marais. 2002. Gladiators: A new order of insect. Scientific American 287:60-65.
  4. ^ a b Terry, M.D., and M.F. Whiting. 2005. Mantophasmatodea and phylogeny of the lower neopterous insects. Cladistics 21(3): 240–257.
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Zompro, O.; Adis, J.; Weitschat, W. 2002. A review of the order Mantophasmatodea (Insecta). Zoologischer Anzeiger 241: 269–279.
  7. ^ 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. 
  8. ^ Randall, J. A. (2014). "Vibrational Communication: Spiders to Kangaroo Rats". Biocommunication of Animals: 103–133. 
  9. ^ 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.[1]

External links[edit]