Public Release: 

First praying mantis survey of Rwanda uncovers rich diversity

Study documents increased species numbers, outlines need for biological surveys

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

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IMAGE: These are specimens collected in Rwanda in 2013 by The Cleveland Museum of Natural History during the first formal praying mantis survey conducted in the African country. view more

Credit: Gavin Svenson

Cleveland . . . A college student working at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History was lead author on the first formal survey of praying mantises in Rwanda, which revealed a 155 percent increase in praying mantis species diversity for the African country. Riley Tedrow, a Case Western Reserve University graduate student pursuing field research for the Museum, participated in two surveys across four locations in Rwanda, including three national parks. The survey was published Oct. 1, 2015 in the journal Zootaxa.

Tedrow helped conduct fieldwork in 2013 and 2014 with collaborators at Rwanda's Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management. The team collected 739 insects representing 41 species from Akagera National Park, Nyungwe National Park, Volcanoes National Park and the Arboretum de Ruhande at the National University of Rwanda. Collection methods included sweep netting and light trapping to gather grass, bark, flower and lichen mantises.

The survey added 28 new praying mantis species records to Rwanda. These add to the 18 previously recorded praying mantis species for the country. In addition, 20 new praying mantis species were recorded for the region, including neighboring Uganda and Burundi. The study has increased scientists' knowledge of the praying mantis species present in Rwanda by 155 percent. Tedrow discovered and described one new species of praying mantis, Dystacta tigrifrutex (meaning "bush tiger mantis"), in 2014 from the insects collected. Research continues on the specimens already inventoried.

"This survey highlights a need for more thorough sampling of the insect fauna of Rwanda," said lead author Tedrow. "Undiscovered diversity is still out there--strange, wonderful and fascinating creatures whose stories I want to tell. With greater levels of biodiversity recorded in this country, we can inform conservation decisions in these important African national parks."

Tedrow worked under the direction of co-author Dr. Gavin Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History. They studied the morphological features of the praying mantis specimens and scoured scientific literature in order to classify and inventory the insects for the survey.

"Discovering this region to be so much richer in diversity for such a well-known insect group has broader implications for other plants and animals there," said Svenson. "This research is significant because it builds a baseline of knowledge about the insect ecology in Rwanda. It documents new biodiversity that we did not know existed, which enables us to monitor and track the species that live in these rainforest, savannah and mountain habitats."

This study was done as part of Svenson's broader research program, which is focused on the evolutionary patterns of relationship, distribution and complex features of praying mantises. His current research project aims to align new sources of relationship evidence (DNA sequence data) with morphology and other features to create a new and accurate classification system for praying mantises that reflects true evolutionary relationships.

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Co-authors of the paper were Kabanguka Nathan and Nasasira Richard of Kitabi College of Conservation and Environmental Management. The collaborative effort also focused on field training to advance conservation initiatives in the future. The project was supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation to Svenson of The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

To view a photo gallery and video interview with Riley Tedrow, visit cmnh.org/Rwanda.

About The Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, incorporated in 1920, is one of the finest institutions of its kind in North America. It is noted for its collections, research, educational programs and exhibits. The collections encompass more than 5 million artifacts and specimens, and research of global significance focuses on 11 natural science disciplines. The Museum conserves biological diversity through the protection of more than 7,300 acres of natural areas. It promotes health education with local programs and distance learning that extends across the globe. Its GreenCityBlueLake Institute is a center of thought and practice for the design of green and sustainable cities. http://www.cmnh.org

Original Source:

Riley Tedrow, Kabanguka Nathan, Nasasira Richard, Gavin J. Svenson. 2015. A survey of the praying mantises of Rwanda, including new records. (Insecta, Mantodea). Zootaxa 4027(1), 67-100.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.4027.1.3

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