Science

Unnerving video shows male praying mantis mating even after his head has been eaten off

They have been described as “zombie mating machines”.

Female praying mantises are known to devour their partners during mating but it appears not even decapitation will deter their male counterparts from procreating.

The unsettling footage from the Deep Look YouTube series shows a male mantis continuing to mate – even after his head has been eaten off – turning him into virtually a “zombie mating machine”.

Even without his head, the bordered male mantis (Stagmomantis limbata) manages to fertilise the eggs, thanks to the nerves in its abdomen which continue to control the movement of the body so it can “get the job done”.

Created by KQED San Francisco and presented by PBS Digital Studios, the video examines the mating behaviour of bordered mantises in California’s Eastern Sierra.

As narrator Lauren Sommer explains, males have little chance at survival because they are “simply outclassed when it comes to strength and deadliness”.

While all this may sound bizarre, Sommers says there is an evolutionary reason why these male mantises are willing victims of sexual cannibalism.

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It seems that the males who die while mating are likely to father more eggs than the ones who survive.

“It takes a ton of energy for females to produce their eggs – about a hundred of them, developing inside her,” Sommer says.

“She’ll lay them in a foamy cluster, called an ootheca. So, that male is fuelling the survival of his species, nutritionally speaking.

“When they hatch in the spring, there will be plenty more mantises to replace this one.”

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