Research Article
Research Article
On Afromantispa and Mantispa (Insecta, Neuroptera, Mantispidae): elucidating generic boundaries
expand article infoLouwtjie P. Snyman, Catherine L. Sole, Michael Ohl§
‡ University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
§ Museum fur Naturkunde, Berlin, Berlin, Germany
Open Access


The genus Afromantispa Snyman & Ohl, 2012 was recently synonymised with Mantispa Illiger, 1798 by Monserrat (2014). Here morphological evidence is presented in support of restoring the genus Afromantispa stat. rev. to its previous status as a valid and morphologically distinct genus. Twelve new combinations (comb. n.) are proposed as species of Afromantispa including three new synonyms.


Mantispidae , Afromantispa , Mantispa , Afrotropics, Palearctic


Mantispidae (Leach, 1815) is a small cosmopolitan family in the very diverse order Neuroptera. The former is characterised by an elongated prothorax, elongated procoxa protruding from the anterior pronotal margin and conspicuous raptorial forelegs. Recently, one of the genera, Mantispa Illiger, 1798 has been the focus of taxonomic studies (Snyman et al. 2012; Monserrat 2014). Mantispa was originally described by Illiger (1978) and quickly became the most speciose genus with a cosmopolitan distribution. Studies by Lambkin (1986a; b), Hoffman (2002), Machado and Rafael (2010) and Snyman et al. (2012) excluded Mantispa’s distribution from much of the world and consequently Mantispa is no longer thought to occur in the Neotropics, Nearctic, Afrotropics or Australasia. Mantispa, according to the morphology of the type species M. pagana (Fabricius, 1775) (synonymised with M. styriaca (Poda, 1761)), is thus probably a small genus from the Palearctic. As the previously mentioned studies focused on the fauna elsewhere the generic boundaries between Mantispa and other similar groups have remained poorly understood.

In their study on the Afrotropical mantispid genera, Snyman et al. (2012) proposed that the majority of the Mantispa-like species from the Afrotropics and south western parts of Europe can be defined as a separate genus and consequently described Afromantispa. The authors unfortunately did not provide a list of species belonging to the newly erected genus claiming it would be best left until a full revision of the genus could be launched. It appears that this might have caused some additional confusion.

Monserrat (2014) synonymised Afromantispa with Mantispa in a study only focussing on the local fauna of the Iberian Peninsula and Balearic Islands. A new species Mantispa incorrupta was also described. Additionally, the author synonymised Sagittalata Handschin, 1959 with Mantispa. The status of Sagittalata is currently still in dispute and not well understood.

Afromantispa, Mantispa and Sagittalata are quite difficult to distinguish, but several morphological characters do support separation of the genera. Adding to the difficulty is that there is a distribution overlap between species from both genera in southern and western Europe. The antennae, prothorax, mesothorax, pterostigma, and fifth tergite are morphologically different between members of the genera (Table 1). Mantispa are represented by only two species that can confidently be placed in the genus (supplementary files: Appendix II). The status of Afromantispa (Snyman & Ohl, 2012) is hereby restored as a genus morphologically distinct from Mantispa, and a list of the species that belong to Afromantispa is provided. This study thus aims to elucidate the boundaries between these two genera.

Table 1.

Morphological characters separating Mantispa and Afromantispa.

Afromantispa Mantispa
Short stout setae on occiput (Fig. 1f. (i))
Pale band in distal third of the antennae (Fig. 1b. (i))
Granulated prothorax (Fig. 1a–d; 2e–f)
Short stout setae on mesothorax (Fig. 1f. (ii))
Bicoloured pterostigma (Fig. 2a. (i); b. (i))
Enlarged fifth male tergite (Fig. 3c. (i))

Material and methods

The specimens used in this study are housed at the following institutions:

AMG Albany Museum, Grahamstown, South Africa

BMNH The Natural History Museum, London, Great Britain

HUAC Personal collection H. and U Aspöck, Vienna, Austria

MNHN Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France

MRAC Musee Royal de l’Afrique Centrale, Tervuren, Belgium

MZBS Museo Zoologia, Barcelona, Spain

NHMB Naturhistorisches Museum, Basel, Switzerland

OUM UniversityMuseum, Oxford, Great Britain

SANC South Arfican National Collection, Roodeplaat, South Africa

VMC Personal collection V. Monserrat, Madrid, Spain

ZMB Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin, Germany

Photos were taken with either a Canon 500D equipped with a 100mm Canon macro lens or with a Leica Z16 APOA camera setup.

All type specimens that are not housed at MRAC and ZMB were studied using high resolution photographs provided by ZMB (supplementary files: Appendix IV). Adult morphological terminology follows that of Lambkin (1986a; b).

Taxonomic amendments

Morphological overview

Head: The flagella of the genera are quite similar in appearance but all species of Afromantispa have a pale band in the distal third of the flagella, this character is not shared by the species of Mantispa. The band is even distinct in Afromantispa species with light yellowish flagella. In the latter, the band is then presented by a few dark antennules prior to the band so it remains visible (Fig. 1b; d) (Monserrat 2014: fig. 43). In Mantispa, the occiput is covered by short stout setae dorsolaterally (Fig. 1f); this feature is not present in the Afromantispa species studied. The rest of the head capsule is very similar between the taxa. The prothorax dorsum of Afromantispa is always covered in granules and setae, where the Mantispa species lack granules, even if small pigmentation “dots” are visible at the origin of the setae on M. styriaca (Fig. 1a–f) (Monserrat 2014: fig. 23–24). Peculiarly, a region in the lateral mid-zone of the prothorax of Afromantispa always lacks granules (Fig. 2e; f) (Monserrat 2014: fig: 45). Mantispa in turn have short stout setae on the dorsum of the mesothorax, which is lacking in Afromantispa (Fig. 1f). The wing venation of both genera is very similar in structure except for features pertaining to the pterostigma (Fig. 2a–d). The costal space in Mantispa seems slightly larger than in Afromantispa, but it can vary. The pterostigma in Mantispa however, is different. The subcosta and radius of Afromantispa is always pale/yellowish in colouration up to or just distal to midway of radial cell 2. Thereafter, the pterostigma commences. The proximal end of the pterostigma is the same pale colouration of the subcosta and radius veins. The centre of the large distal half is always reddish or dark in colouration flanked by a thin yellowish margin until meeting the veins. The pterostigma of some species might be slightly truncated and anteriorly rounded (Fig. 2b). Mantispa in turn always have a reddish monocoloured pterostigma (Fig. 2c–d). The terminalia of both genera are similar (Fig. 3a–b) in structure where variation on ectoproct size and length is common in Afromantispa. Both genera have an extrusible gland present between tergite V and VI (Eltringham 1932). Tergite V of Afromantispa is conspicuously enlarged, especially in fresh specimens (Fig. 3c). From various photos of live M. styriaca and M. aphavexelte Aspöck & Aspöck, 1994, including those of Monserrat (2014), it was determined that this tergite is not as prominent in Mantispa.

Figure 1. 

Prothorax in dorsal view of a Afromantispa capeneri (Handschin, 1959) b Afromantispa moucheti (Navás, 1925) c Afromantispa nana (Erichson, 1839) d Afromantispa tenella (Erichson, 1839) e Mantispa styriaca f Mantispa aphavexelte (photo credits: a–d Johan Saayman).

Figure 2. 

Right wings of a Afromantispa tenella b Afromantispa moucheti c Mantispa styriaca d Mantispa aphavexelte. Prothorax in lateral view of e Afromantispa moucheti f Mantispa styriaca (photo credits a–b; e–f Johan Saayman).

Figure 3. 

Terminalia of a Afromantispa zonaria (Navás, 1925) – type specimen from MRACb Mantispa aphavexelte. Freshly killed Afromantispa tenella indicating enlarged fifth male tergite (photo credits: a Ludwig Eksteen, c Morgan Trimble).

The elongated line on the procoxa of Sagittalata suggested by Snyman et al. (2012) was considered as a weak character by the authors. Sagittalata lacks the greatly enlarged gland present between the V and VI tergites. In addition, species from Sagittalata have a dorsally enlarged inner flange on the caudal apex of the gonocoxites as illustrated by Poivre (1981a (fig. 2 J; 4E); 1981b (fig. 1T; 3X; 6R; 7S); 1983 (fig. 3 H, L)). The cusp on the anterior margin of the pronotum lacks short stout setae which are present in Mantispa. The pronotal dorsum lacks short stout setae that are present in Mantispa, but may have a few sparsely distributed setae. The mesothorax completely lacks prominent setae and is either glaborous or pubescent (velvet appearance) which is also different in Mantispa. Sagittalata might be forming part of the previously synonymised genus Mantispilla, thus, changing the taxonomic status of the genus in this paper only to be considered moot in subsequent publications seems illogical (Snyman et al. in prep). The current synonymy suggested by Monserrat (2014) are considered valid but are excluded from the species list in the Suppl. material 1.


These two genera are possibly quite closely related and therefore present several confusing morphological characteristics. The suggestion by Monserrat (2014) to synonymise the genera has cascading effects on the taxonomy of Mantispinae. Even though western Europe is not specifically rich in mantispid species, these genera are not confined to that area. The suggested synonymy by Monserrat (2014) means that Mantispa will again include 144 species spanning Africa, Europe, Asia and some Australasian islands (numbers from Ohl 2004). This might be possible, but should be approached with caution and include a substantially larger number of species than what was included by the author. Monserrat (2014) further only considered species formally recorded from Spain, where a much larger scope should have been included.

The following species all conform to the characters proposed in this study and are consequently regarded as belonging to Afromantispa: capeneri (Handschin), comb. n., dispersa (Navás), comb. n., incorrupta (Monserrat), comb. n., meadewaldina (Navás), comb. n., moucheti (Navás), comb. n., nana (Erichson), comb. n., nanyukina (Navás), comb. n. natalensis (Navás), comb. n., navasi (Handschin), comb. n., verruculata (Navás), comb. n., zonaria (Navás), comb. n., zonata (Navás), comb. n. Afromantispa arabica (Navás, 1914f), syn. n. is a new synonym of Afromantispa nana (Erichson, 1839). Afromantispa variolosa (Navás, 1914d), syn. n. is a new synonym of Afromantispa tenella. Afromantispa schoutedeni (Navás, 1929), syn. n. is a new synonym of Afromantispa moucheti (Navás) (supplementary files: Suppl. material 1 I). Several other species have been described with a distribution in the Afrotropics (supplementary files: Suppl. material 1 III). The type specimens of these species have not yet been studied and the placement of the species remains uncertain. The distribution of the genus suggests that these might belong to Afromantispa or another less likely, another Afrotropical genus. Their current placement in Mantispa is most likely a historical one and possibly erroneous. Until the type specimens are studied, the names should remain in Mantispa.

This study confidently presents enough data for the separation of Afromantispa and Mantispa. Current integrative studies including the authors of this study are ongoing focussing on the elucidation of the world genera of the mantispines.


Werner Strümpher is thanked for his valuable and critical comments on the manuscript. We would also like to extend our gratitude to Johan Saayman for his enthusiasm and willingness to help with the photography, as well as Morgan Trimble for some of the photos used in this publication. Mervyn Mansell is thanked for his willingness to discuss and for his meaningful advice. We are also grateful for all the staff of SANC, MRAC and ZMB who helped with the curation and lending of specimens. Lastly, we would like to acknowledge the NRF as the primary funding body of this study.


  • Aspöck U, Aspöck H (1994) Zur Nomenklatur der Mantispiden Europas (Insecta: Neuroptera: Mantispidae). Annalen des Naturhistorischen Museums in Wein 96: 99–114.
  • Eltringham H (1932) On an extrusible glandular structure in the abdomen of Mnatispa styriaca, Poda (Neuroptera). Transactions of the Entomological Society of London 80: 103–105. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2311.1932.tb00084.x
  • Erichson WF (1839) Beiträge zu einer Monographie von Mantispa, mit einleitenden Betrachtungen über die Ordnungen der Orthopteren und Neuropteren. Zeitschrift für die Entomologie 1: 147–173.
  • Fabricius JC (1775) Systema entomologiae, sistens insectorvm classes, ordines, genera, species, adiectis synonymis, locis, descriptionibvs, observationibvs. Flensbvrgi et Lipsiae, 832 pp. doi: 10.5962/bhl.title.36510
  • Handschin E (1959) Beiträge zu einer Revision der Mantispiden (Neuroptera). I Teil. Mantispiden des Musee Royal du Congo Belge, Tervuren. Revue de Zoologie et de Botanique Africaines 59: 185–227.
  • Hoffman KM (2002) Family Mantispidae. In: Penny ND (Ed.) A Guide to the Lacwings (Neuroptera) of Costa Rica.Proceedings of the California academy of Sciences, California, 251–275, 419–432.
  • Illiger JKW (1798) Verzeichnis der käfer Preussens, entworfen von Johann Gottlieb Kugelann à ausgearbeitet von Johann Karl Wilhelm Illiger. Mit einer vorrede des professors und pagenhofmeisters Helwig in Braunschweig, und dem ang. Halle, 510.
  • Lambkin KJ (1986) A Revision of the Australian Mantispidae I (Insecta: Neuroptera) with a contribution to the classification of the Family I. General and Drepanicinae. Australian Journal of Zoology 1: 1–142. doi: 10.1071/ajzs116
  • Lambkin KJ (1986) A revision of the Australian Mantispidae II (Insecta: Neuroptera) with a contribution to the classification of the family II. Calomantispidae and Mantispidae. Australian Journal of Zoology, 1–113. doi: 10.1071/ajzs117
  • Leach WE (1815) Entomology. In: Brewster D (Ed.) Edinburgh Encyclopaedia. Edinburgh, 57–172.
  • Machado RJP, Rafael JA (2010) Taxonomy of the Brazilian species previously placed in Mantispa Illiger, 1798 (Neuroptera: Mantispidae), with the description of three new species. Zootaxa 2454: 1–61.
  • Monserrat VJ (2014) Revisión de los mantíspidos de la Península Ibérica y Baleares (Insecta, Neuropterida, Neuroptera, Mantispidae). Graellsia 70: e012. doi: 10.3989/graellsia.2014.v70.115
  • Navás L (1925) Névroptères nouveaux. Annales de la Société Scientifique de Bruxelles 44: 566–573.
  • Navás L (1929) Insectes du Congo Belge (Série III). Revue de Zoologie et de Botanique Africaines 18: 92–112.
  • Ohl M (2004) Annotated catalog of the Mantispidae of the World (Neuroptera). Contributions on Entomology, International 5: 131–262.
  • Poda N (1761) Insecta musei Graecensis, quae in ordines, genera et species juxta systema naturae Caroli Linnaei digessit. Graecii, 127.
  • Poivre C (1981a) Mantispidae du Cameroun II. Nouvelle description et Morphologie Externe comparee de Sagittalata lugubris et S. jucunda (Neuroptera, Planipennia). Neuroptera International 1: 110–121.
  • Poivre C (1981b) Mantispides nouveaux d’Afrique et d’Europe (Neuroptera, Planipennia) (1re partie). Neuroptera International 1: 175–205.
  • Poivre C (1983) Morphologie externe comparee des Perlamantispa du sud de l’Europe: Perlamantispa perla (Pallas, 1772) et P. icterica (Pictet, 1865) (Planipennia, Mantispidae). Neuroptera International 2: 129–143.
  • Snyman LP, Ohl M, Mansell MW, Scholtz CH (2012) A revision and key to the genera of Afrotropical Mantispidae (Neuropterida, Neuroptera), with the description of a new genus. ZooKeys 184: 67–93. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.184.2489

Supplementary material

Supplementary material 1 

List and table of species names, updated from Ohl (2004)

Louwtjie P. Snyman, Catherine L. Sole, Michael Ohl

Data type: species data

This dataset is made available under the Open Database License ( The Open Database License (ODbL) is a license agreement intended to allow users to freely share, modify, and use this Dataset while maintaining this same freedom for others, provided that the original source and author(s) are credited.
Download file (49.70 kb)
login to comment