This website is a collaborative effort to revise the classification of praying mantises (Mantodea), a project funded by a Revisionary Synthesis in Systematics (REVSYS) grant from the US National Science Foundation awarded to GJ Svenson. Project results and taxonomic resources will be served to the broader community of researchers and the public through this site.
The highly diverse and charismatic predatory insect group, Mantodea (praying mantises), is comprised of approximately 2,400 described species distributed in 15 families. Despite the long tradition of ecological, behavioral, and physiological research focused on the group, they have historically received limited taxonomic attention and are threatened by a decline in active systematists. This neglect is exemplified by inconsistent higher-level classification across historical and current taxonomic treatments. The recent publication of a molecular phylogeny (Svenson & Whiting, 2009) provided strong evidence that the classification does not reflect phylogenetic relationships. This appears to be caused by a history of continental vicariance and isolation with diversification leading to repeated convergence of morphological features linked to ecomorphic life strategy. Svenson & Whiting (2009) concluded that convergent morphology is the central reason for paraphyly in most higher-level groups of Mantodea. Without a resurgence of new training within Mantodea and the re-evaluation of homology, we face a roadblock in the progress of all research within this order. This project will unify traditional and modern systematics methodology including monography, phylogeny, illustration, digital imaging, databasing, collection curation and development, morphological homology assessment/character testing, distributional mapping, and DNA sequence acquisition to accomplish the following goals:
I. Natural Classification. Complete high-level phylogenetic analysis of Mantodea using molecular and morphological data to inform a reorganization and revision of families, subfamilies, and tribes.
II. Revision. Conduct comprehensive revisions of Flower Mantises and Earless Mantises through phylogenetics, digital imaging and illustration, databasing, and taxon acquisition.
III. Identification. Produce three online interactive taxonomic keys for higher-level Mantodea, Flower Mantises, and Earless Mantises using digital imaging of diagnostic characters, morphological descriptions, and geographic range representations.
IV. Species Description. Collect new Mantodea taxa from hyper-diverse regions for revisionary work, monograph production, museum collection development, and new species discovery.
V. Training. Establish a center for mantodean taxonomic expertise through extensive graduate and undergraduate student training and collaborations with active taxonomists.