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Pronunciation:  [Manto⋅PHAS⋅ma⋅TO⋅de⋅a]

Common Name: Gladiators / Heelwalkers / Mantophasmids

Greek Origins of Name:  Mantophasmatodea is an amalgamation of the order names for praying mantids (Mantodea) and walkingsticks (Phasmatodea). It reflects the blend of physical and ecological characteristics found in these insects.

Spot ID Key Characters:

  1. Body cylindrical, wingless
  2. Mouthparts mandibulate, hypognathous
  3. 5-segmented tarsi
  4. Cerci short, 1-segmented


Hemimetabola, i.e. incomplete development (egg, nymph, adult)


Polyneoptera, closely related to Grylloblattodea


Rare.  Found only in Tanzania, Namibia, and the southwestern corner of South Africa.   There are 0 families and 0 species in North America and 1 family and 6-8 species worldwide

Life History and Ecology:

These insects are nocturnal predators.   They live within rock crevices where they hide in clumps of grass and prey on spiders and other arthropods.

Appearance of Immatures and Adults:

  1. Antennae slender, filiform
  2. Mouthparts mandibulate, hypognathous
  3. Body cylindrical
  4. Tarsi 5-segmented
  5. Secondarily wingless
  6. Cerci short, one-segmented

Economic Importance:

No economic importance.   They are extremely rare.

Major Families:

Mantophasmatidae is the only family in this order.   It contains three genera.

Fun Facts:

  • The order Mantophasmatodea was erected in 2002.  It is the first new insect order since Grylloblattodea was described in 1915.
  • Mantophasmatodea is the smallest order of insects.  Fewer than 8 species are known and two of these are based on specimens preserved in Baltic amber (40-45 million years old).
  • So far, living members of this order have been found only in the Brandberg and Erongo Mountains of Namibia and the Western Cape Province of South Africa.
  • “Gladiator” was chosen as a common name for these insects because of their physical similarity to armoured fighters in the movie Gladiator

Mantophasmids are found only in and around South Africa. This stamp was issued in 2008 to commemorate the International Congress of Entomology held in Durban.

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