Type: PhD thesis
Publication date: 31/07/2020

Namesort descending Role
Alexandre Pires Aguiar Advisor *

Examining board:

Namesort descending Role
Alexandre Pires Aguiar Advisor *
BRUNO CANCIAN DE ARAUJO External Alternate *
Celso Oliveira Azevedo Internal Examiner *
Frederico Falcão Salles Internal Examiner *
Lusinério Prezotti External Examiner *
Maria Lucia França Teixeira Moscatelli External Examiner *
Sarah Maria Vargas Internal Alternate *

Summary: The nymph stage of Mantodea represents approximately
50-60% of their total lifespan. Still, compared to the adult
form, nymphs have historically received less attention in studies
on the group. The biggest knowledge gap seems to be the
morphology. Descriptions of nymphal forms in the literature are
punctual, superficial and of little informative value. Recent
studies have indicated that the lack of ontogenetic information
for the group represents an obstacle that renders the
understanding of its evolution, ecology, and systematics. Chapter
1 of this dissertation presents the first comprehensive study of
the post-embryonic changes of the praying mantises through a
comparative examination of the external morphology of the nymphal
instars of 10 species. The central goal was to recognize general
ontogenetic patterns shared by the Mantodea. The nymphs were
reared in the laboratory using a methodology specially developed
for the present study. Released exuviae were stored, high
resolution photographs of the live nymphs were recorded, and some
specimens were preserved at each instar. With these three sources
of information, a comparative morphological description of the
nymphs of the 10 species examined during the post-embryonic
development was produced. The recognized ontogenetic patterns
include changes in the antennae, compound eyes, cephalic capsule,
prothorax, legs, raptorial leg spines, wing buds, genitalia,
cerci, body adornments and cryptic strategies. These patterns
indicate that the nymphal stage of the praying mantises can be
divided into two sub-stages that differ qualitatively and
quantitatively from each other: the protonymph (the form of the
1st instar) and the deuteronymph (the form of the other instars).
The deuteronymph, in turn, exhibits an initial and a more
advanced form: meso- and metanymph, respectively. It is proposed
that proto-, deutero-, meso- and metanymph are considered
different semaphoronts for Mantodea for the purpose of systematic
studies. During the study, it was recognized that the nymphs of
Acontista concinna presented a new case of transformational
mimicry with ants. Chapter 2 reports on this case in detail,
which exemplifies one of the types of information ignored due to
the traditional neglect of the praying mantises' nymphal
morphology. Comparisons conducted with the potential ant model
indicate that the transformational mimicry of A. concinna is
characterized by the 1st instar being a specific mimic of the ant
Pseudomyrmex gibbinotus, and the 2nd and 3rd instars being
probable generic mimics of larger brown ants. Both forms are
possible cases of Batesian mimicry, but the Wasmannian mimicry
hypothesis could not be refuted. As an additional data, the first
case of chromatic variation of adults for this species is also
described. Finally, Chapter 3 presents the original rearing
methodology of praying mantises developed to carry out the
present study. A simple, low-maintenance device is described that
allows small to medium-sized mantises to be kept individualized
and fed in a semi-autonomous manner. The device allows many
mantids to be reared simultaneously in the laboratory, requiring
only a fraction of the time that would be consumed by the
conventional rearing technique. Key advantages of the new method
include the prevention of cannibalism, the possibility of
monitoring individual mantises and autonomy of operation for
several weeks.

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