Sunday, May 27, 2012

Unicorns Do Exist

Hi, I'm a Unicorn Mantis from Molino Basin, Catalina Mts, close to Tucson, Arizona. I am having a small identity crisis. I'm still a nymph, even though I'm more than 5 cm long, or would be, if I ever stretched my body, which I don't because the curl of my abdomen is part of my shape-dissolving camouflage.

 Here I am before I was discovered for stardom. My agent has good eyes, don't you think? Where do those grapevine twigs end and my endless legs begin? And when the wind shakes the vines I even add my own confusing little sway, almost sure to throw a predator or camera out of focus.

 So here I posed in the open for some beauty shots. I do know my angles! And always turn both my eyes to the camera - after all, I'm one of the few insects with binocular vision and a head that rotates on its neck just like yours. This unique ability also sets me apart from my youngest siblings as a sign of my maturity.

Far from being a pious 'Praying Mantis' like my Mediterranean cousin, I love Latin dancing and could conduct any symphony orchestra without a baton with my innate rhythm and great arms.

Let me not conceal my weapons, though: these are raptorial and deadly when unfolded. I don't even have to pursue my prey. The wariest moths and grasshoppers will walk right into my embrace.

 Just observe what it takes to make me disappear again! Just some dry branches, and a little motionless patience!

Now lets add a natural background that isn't just white: wouldn't you walk into the trap?

But back to my identity crisis: Am I an Arizonan (Pseudovates arizonae) or a Mexican Unicorn (Phyllovates chlorophaea)? Supposedly we are easier to separate as adults and the ranges of the species do not overlap, with the Mexican staying in Texas and the Arizonan living in Arizona.  But I need to ask the scientists who divided us not just into two species but into two distinct genera: was that politically motivated???

Pseudovates arizonae ootheca hatching.
22 July, 2014.
Rio Rico, Santa Cruz Co. AZ, photo and copy right Tony Palmer
Can you believe it, I just received some baby pictures from Tony Palmer via Facebook!
Nothing could soothe those identity problems better than this reminder of my roots. Weren't we adorable?

See more pictures and the rest of the story here


  1. It is an amazing looking Mantis!

  2. Wow! Beautiful creature. And wonderful pictures!!

  3. Very cool!! Love the storyline as well...good job! :)

  4. What a creature! Never knew these existed. LOVE the portrait right at the start (and the narrative)!

  5. I just found your blog. How fascinating! And your photography is phenomenal!

    I'll be back for more!


  6. by e mail from Yen Saw
    Fantastic! Pseudovates arizonae subadult female.

  7. Robyn Waayers just pointed out Jean-Henri Fabre's description of the Empusa, that fits my unicorns so well: