Fossil of Cretaceous-Period Praying Mantis Found in Canada

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Labradormantis guilbaulti. Image credit: Demers-Potvin et al., doi: 10.1111/syen.12457.

Paleontologists have identified a new fossil genus and species of primitive praying mantis from fore- and hind-wing imprints discovered in Labrador, Canada.

Paleontologists know that most modern praying mantises, with their characteristic grasping forelegs, look very different from their oldest fossil ancestors.

However, it has been difficult for them to trace mantis evolution more precisely because of the multiple gaps in the fossil record of these insects, combined with the very different anatomies of the three most primitive modern mantis groups: Chaeteessidae, Mantoididae and Metallyticidae.

The new mantis species, Labradormantis guilbaulti, lived in the Canadian Subarctic around 100 million years ago (Late Cretaceous period).

Its fossil wings were found at the Redmond Mine locality near Schefferville in Labrador, Canada.

By using reflectance transformation imaging, Dr. Alexandre Demers-Potvin of McGill University’s Redpath Museum and colleagues were able to get a better view of the intricate network of veins lying along the fossil wings.

They noticed a vein lying along the hind-wing’s folding line (called AA2*) that is only found in one modern mantis lineage, the Chaeteessidae family.

Following this observation, they produced a revised evolutionary tree that included Labradormantis guilbaulti among some of its living and extinct relatives.

The identification of this single vein in the new species suggested that this structure had not evolved among Chaeteessidae in isolation, but that it was present in extinct relatives of modern mantises as well.

An artist’s interpretation of Labradormantis guilbaulti in liftoff among the leaves of a sycamore tree, Labrador. The interpretation is based on fossils (for the wings) and living and extinct relatives (for the rest of the body). Fossilized sycamore leaves have been found in the same deposits as the mantis wings and show that this new insect species would have lived in a lush warm temperate forest during the Cretaceous period. Image credit: A. Demers-Potvin.

“It’s very rare to advance our understanding of insect evolution without seeing a complete insect specimen trapped in amber,” said co-author Dr. Hans Larsson, also from McGill University’s Redpath Museum.

“In our paper, we present a very rare case in which a less well-preserved fossil has a similarly high impact.”

“We hope that this study inspires investigations of other wing impression fossils to address similar questions elsewhere in the insect evolutionary tree.”

The study was published in the journal Systematic Entomology.


Alexandre V. Demers-Potvin et al. Wing morphology of a new Cretaceous praying mantis solves the phylogenetic jigsaw of early-diverging extant lineages. Systematic Entomology, published online January 9, 2021; doi: 10.1111/syen.12457