A prehistoric praying mantis was trapped in sticky amber around 23-34 million years ago.

Amber is the fossilized resin from ancient forests. Amber is not produced from tree sap, but rather from plant resin. This aromatic resin can drip from and ooze down trees, as well as fills internal fissures, trapping debris such as seeds, leaves, feathers, insects and even small animals. The resin becomes buried and fossilized through a natural polymerization of the original organic compounds. However, the prehistoric predator looks like it could have been catching flies yesterday.

In 2016, a small praying mantis that was perfectly intact in a piece of amber was sold through Heritage Auctions for $6,000. The pristine piece of amber, which comes from the Dominican Republic, gives a rare view of this incredible mantis. The experts in this field estimate that this amazing piece dates back to the Oligocene period, which means that it is around 23-34 million years old.

Picture courtesy of Heritage Auctions, www.HA.com

There are approximately 2,400 known species of mantises today, most of them can be found in tropical climates. Interestingly, the earliest of the praying mantis’ fossils dates back to 135 million years ago, they come from the last place you would guess, much colder –Siberia. Furthermore, any members of the family Mantidae are known as mantids. The word ‘Praying Mantis’ in other words is used to describe any species of the family Mantidae whether it’s a Brazilian mantis or a Chinese mantis.

With all fairness, this piece has to be one of a kind; the quality of the Dominican amber speaks for itself. Heritage Auction has a fitting description for the piece.

“The insect with the unique characteristics is poetically singular in the otherwise pristine fossil remnant. A close-up photo of the bug gives further insight into this entombed mantis. This is a tiny specimen with a major inclusion.”

This prehistoric praying mantis most definitely has the same features as its descendants.

Doesn’t it look like this guy?

Resin from the extinct tree Hymenaea protera is the source of Dominican amber and probably of most amber found in tropical countries. 

In the image the mantis may seem larger, but the mantis is actually less than an inch long. The entire length is only 1.18 İnches and 0.52 inches wide.

Nevertheless, without any doubt it is a voracious predator just like its descendants. 

Whoever bought this spectacular piece of amber took home an interesting piece of evolutionary history.

5 Fascinating Praying Mantis Facts

A Praying Mantis Has 5 Eyes! A mantis has two big compound eyes, the ones you will easily notice. But they also have three smaller eyes located on the middle of their head. Those eyes are used for detecting light while the big eyes are for seeing movement and having depth vision. Many other insect species have the same five-eye configuration.

They Are Agile Like Cats! To the surprise of scientists filming them, mantises have been found to jump with extreme precision, contorting their body mid-air to land on a precarious and specific target. Watch the video below; athletic, right?

They Are Masters Of Disguise! Praying mantises are supremely gifted when it comes to camouflage. They come in the form of leaves and sticks and branches, like many insects, but also take it a bit further. Some mantises molt at the end of a dry season to become black, conveniently aligning themselves with the brush fires that leave a blackened landscape. The flower mantises are crazy; some wildly ornate, others looking so convincing that unsuspecting insects come to collect nectar from them … and become dinner in the meantime.

Small Spectacles! Praying mantises have been receiving some recent media coverage for their collaboration with scientists from Newcastle University’s Institute of Neuroscience. The scientists have been fitting super-small 3D glasses on praying mantises. The research team says that the study may be able to help us program algorithms that will allow for 3D vision for robots. Mantises were selected as they are the only insect proven to have 3D vision like humans. Thus so far, the scientists have said that the mantises have not been bothered by the glasses and have gone about their cricket-eating business as usual. Praying Mantises have a pair of compound eyes that are made up of thousands of miniature eyes in some cases.

A Gardener’s Best Friend! Some gardeners have used praying mantis to control other insects but other bugs like lady beetles have been found to be much more effective. The insect-eating machines practice their own form of home pest control with their triangular heads that turns 180 degrees, large eyes and serrated legs perfect for snacking on garden pests. However, the praying mantis does not know the difference between beneficial and non-beneficial insects so the predators could do more harm than good in some instances.

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References: Tree Hugger, Just Fun Facts