A praying mantis was seen hunting fish for the very first time.
Jake Buehler of National Geographic reported that conservationist Rajesh Puttaswamaiah observed that a giant male Asian mantis had been seen returning to the same rooftop water garden for five consecutive nights to hunt for small fish.
Since mantises are known to be spectacularly aggressive hunters, it's not all that unusual for them to be observed hunting successfully, but hunting for fish is another story. Mantises have been observed catching and eating lizards, mice, snakes, and even hummingbirds, but this particular mantis was catching guppies, and at night to boot.
Since Puttaswamaiah and his fellow researchers were surprised that this praying mantis could see well enough to catch fish in the dark, they needed to understand why. Entomologist Roberto Battiston said,"[A] mantid's eye doesn't work like ours. They see movements better than shapes or colors. The [guppies] have a large tail they move like a flag while swimming, and it may have resembled to the mantid a strange bug scampering around."
This specific mantis visited the water for five nights in a row, eating around two fish each night, catching nine in total. Even though research shows that the insects eyes "clearly indicates that they have evolved to prey in daylight" this one chose not only the night, but to hunt in the water, which as Battiston says presents another "visual barrier" as well.
As with many predators, the praying mantis certainly seems capable of complex learning. Since it returned multiple times to the same spot where it was successful, and targeted the same prey, it shows that "This behavior sounds very much like a precise hunting strategy--not random choices."
It still comes down to the fact that this was one finding based on one mantis. Certainly further studies need to be made to corroborate the findings.
Cover photo via Smithsonian