Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Most praying mantises eat insects. Occasionally, mantids are seen preying on more exotic menu times -- birds, small amphibians and reptiles, even mice. According to new research, they can also catch fish.
In a new paper published Thursday in the Journal of Orthoptera Research, scientists described for the first time evidence of fish consumption by a praying mantis.
According to the study, scientists observed a single adult male regularly stalking, catching and eating guppies in a roof garden pond in Karnataka, India.
"To reach its prey, the insect would walk on the leaves of water lilies and water cabbage growing on the surface of the pond," researchers wrote in a news release.
Though there's been significant anecdotal evidence of unusual mantid hunting and feeding behaviors, scientific documentation has been hard to come by. The latest discovery lends credence to past anecdotes.
"This case confirms that in their natural habitat, mantids can and do feed on vertebrates, even on fish," scientists wrote in their newly published paper.
According to the study, the observations also offer proof that a single mantis can alter an ecosystem. Researchers observed the mantis eat 9 of 22 guppies from the pond in a span of five days. Guppies feed on aquatic insects. With the introduction of a new predator, the ecological balance can shift.
The discovery can also offer fresh insight into the visual capabilities of mantids. The mantis' eyes were able to track fish at night and account for water's refraction of light.
Finally, scientists argued the repeated nature of the mantis' fishing behavior "suggests the possibility that the insect learned from the experience where and what to hunt."