Mantophasmatodea - The Gladiators AKA Heelwalkers
The last order to be described, the Mantophasmatodea came to light in 2002. Misidentified, sometimes as immature mantids, they had actually been collected prior to their “discovery” and stored in many museum collections, one dating back to 1890. In aspect, they are sort of a cross between a mantid and a walkingstick (as the ordinal name implies). They are carnivorous and feed on other insects but are small, only a few centimeters (1”-2”) in length. Their size generally forces them to stay hidden at the bases of the plants amongst which they hunt. The common name “heelwalker” is derived from their habit of keeping the tarsal segments up in the air at all times; the name “gladiator” references the armor-plated look of these fierce little insects. The female has a well-developed ovipositor (egg-laying tube) and all instars have long cerci. They are considered the smallest order of insects, with only 13 species known (two of these are based on specimens preserved in Baltic amber about 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.