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Genuine clue to why orchid mantises look like flowers

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boring male orchid mantis/Gavin Svenson

Not that it helps Darwinism one bit. From ScienceDaily:

By studying the evolutionary relationships of the orchid mantis and its distant relatives, the team discovered that females in the orchid mantis lineage increased in size and changed color over their evolutionary history to gain advantage over large pollinating insects, such as bees, as well as the ability to attract them for predation. However, the morphologically dissimilar males are small and camouflaged, enabling them to live a life of predator avoidance and mate finding. The team found that this difference in males and females, termed sexual dimorphism, was likely the result of female predatory success that favored larger and more conspicuously colored individuals. This result challenges the traditional explanation for sexual dimorphism in arthropods as an increase in female egg production and suggests female predation strategy led to the differing male and female ecologies in the orchid mantises.

So that explains why it is an advantage to females to evolve eloborate disguises.

But then the Darwin gap appears: How do the females manage to look like flowers?

“It was not our intention to study the orchid mantises specifically, but when a unique pattern emerges, one must pursue fascinating results,” said Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University. “Finding the first case of males and females of a praying mantis species living extremely different adult lives was interesting and unique, but discovering the first case of arthropod sexual size dimorphism caused by female predatory success rather than investment in reproduction was both surprising and rewarding. This is particularly true when the original research focus was to fix the classification system to reflect true evolutionary relationship. Finding patterns in your study group that inform broader evolutionary understanding is the holy grail of systematics research.” Paper. (public access) – Gavin J. Svenson, Sydney K. Brannoch, Henrique M. Rodrigues, James C. O’Hanlon, Frank Wieland. Selection for predation, not female fecundity, explains sexual size dimorphism in the orchid mantises. Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 37753 DOI: 10.1038/srep37753More.

This is likely an excellent, long overdue, find. In a world less willing to credit magic to Darwinism, it might have come sooner.

The problem is, how exactly, do female mantises arrange to look exactly like flowers? That is what is killing Darwinism. Not the reasons why some state of affairs is an advantage to a life form but how exactly it happens in a world where the ambient conditions and targets are constantly changing.

See also: Orchids with monkey faces and all manner of “ain’t what it looks like.”

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3 Replies to “Genuine clue to why orchid mantises look like flowers

  1. 1
    tjguy says:

    Beautiful! I wasn’t aware that such creatures existed.

    a) Evolution has amazing powers!

    b) The Designer has amazing powers and creativity!

    Which do you choose?

  2. 2
    Origenes says:

    How can very similar DNA be responsible for such extremely different adult body plans?

  3. 3
    bornagain77 says:

    a few related notes:

    Watching a transparent mantis eat is both disgusting and fascinating – video
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=puQTJHb0eg0

    Sermonti on Stick Insects – 2006
    Excerpt: The oldest phasmid fossils (they go back in Baltic amber to the Tertiary – i.e. about 50 million years ago) look identical to present-day species, showing that no gradations have occurred. It is thought that those phasmids originated from Chresmodids of the Upper Jurassic in Germany, fossils of which are encountered in deposits dating back some 150 million years. But the oldest fossils of stick or leaf insects (protophasmids) go back to even remoter periods, in the Permian (250 million years ago, in the Paleozoic). One might argue that these insects completed the process of imitating leaves at an extremely gradual rate beginning at a still earlier time. Yet things do not work out this way. Plants with flowers and leaves (phanerogams and latifoliae) appeared on earlier than the Cretaceous – in other words about 100 million years ago, long after the first protophasmids. This chronological anomaly places the imitators earlier in time than the objects of the imitation, leaving entomologists and paleontologists disconcerted.
    http://exilefromgroggs.blogspo.....sects.html

    Jurassic insect that mimicked ginkgo leaves discovered – November 28, 2012
    Excerpt: Researchers working in China have discovered an insect that lived 165 million years ago that they believe used its wings to mimic the leaves of an ancient ginkgo tree. The fossil finding, the team writes in their paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the few that shows that early insects mimicked non-flowering plants millions of years before doing so with angiosperms.
    http://phys.org/news/2012-11-j.....inkgo.html

    Fruit fly with the wings of beauty – July 2012
    Excerpt: But a closer examination of the transparent wings of Goniurellia tridens reveals a piece of evolutionary(?) art. Each wing carries a precisely detailed image of an ant-like insect, complete with six legs, two antennae, a head, thorax and tapered abdomen.
    http://www.thenational.ae/news.....-of-beauty

    17 Flowers That Look Like Something Else
    http://www.boredpanda.com/flow.....areidolia/

    Wild Orchids of Israel: Seduction of the Long-horned Bee (Irreducible Complexity) – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFftHXbjEQA

    Hammer Orchid that mimics female Wasp – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv4n85-SqxQ

    Mimicry: The Orchid and the Bee (evolutionary narrative gloss removed)
    Excerpt: As many as 10,000 species of dainty orchids in the floral world utilize deception in order to be get pollinated: they have elaborate ruses to lure insects.
    Generally we think of flowers as offering food to the insects that pollinate them. flower species pretend to have food that insects want, emitting scents of coconut or even rotting meat. Some orchids, however, appear to offer the promise of sex: They resemble female versions of certain insects.
    The pseudo-copulation strategy of the orchid enables it to spread its genes widely. The mimicry is near-perfect. For example, the Australian hammer orchid has taken advantage of a mating ritual of the Thynnid wasp, which involves a female wasp waiting on top of a branch or plant for a male to spot her. The hammer orchid’s flower mimics the female wasp looking upward for a male flying by, complete with a fake shiny head and furry body. The orchid even releases an enticing female wasp pheromone.
    When the male wasp tries to mate with the dummy female, he fails, but the orchid succeeds in getting pollen on the wasp. He flies away, only to be fooled again by another orchid pulling the same trick. In the process, the wasp transfers pollen from flower to flower.
    Place a real female wasp next to the orchid mimic, and a male wasp will spot the real deal. flowers happen to bloom in the period when male wasps are flying but females are not out yet.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/evolut.....11_02.html

    Carnivorous Plants – Wolf-Ekkehard Lonnig, retired director Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding Research,
    Excerpt: Moreover, it appears to be hard even to imagine clear-cut selective advantages for all the thousands of postulated intermediate steps in a gradual scenario, not to mention the formulation and examination of scientific (i.e. testable) hypotheses for the origin of the complex carnivorous plant structures examined above.
    http://www.math.utep.edu/Facul.....s/carn.pdf

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