Credit: Rajesh Puttaswamaiah)

Praying mantises may not actually pray, but they do prey heavily on insects along with other small land animals. Now, however, for the first time, scientists have documented a praying mantis catching and eating fish as well.

The unusual scene was observed by the conservationist Rajesh Puttaswamaiah, who witnessed the male giant Asian mantis (Hierodula tenuidentata) return to a rooftop garden on five consecutive nights to eat groupies in a pond.

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Credit: Rajesh Puttaswamaiah)
The praying mantis paid daily visits to a plant-pot water feature, where it would perch on the leaves of water lilies and water cabbage plants floating on the surface.

Conservationist Nayak Manjunath and Roberto Battiston, an entomologist at Italy’s Musei del Canal di Brenta, describe this unprecedented hunting behavior in the Journal of Orthoptera Research

This is the first time such behavior has been spotted in the wild, the researchers say, though videos of pet mantises eating fish abound on Youtube. Indeed, in captivity, mantises seem happy to eat almost anything they’re fed.

Credit: Rajesh Puttaswamaiah
The water garden, with the praying mantis visible at right.

The carnivorous insects are adaptable hunters, ready and willing to try out new strategies to catch prey. They also seem adept at utilizing the human-made environment to snag a meal since the guppies here were kept in an artificial pond on a rooftop, and there are numerous reported cases of praying mantises feasting on hummingbirds at bird feeders.