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Temporal range: Jurassic–Recent
Mantophasma zephyrum
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Subclass: Pterygota
Infraclass: Neoptera
Superorder: Exopterygota
Order: Notoptera
Suborder: Mantophasmatodea
Family: Mantophasmatidae

The insect family Mantophasmatidae is the sole family in its order. It is a group of African carnivorous insects discovered in 2002.[1] The most common vernacular name for this order is gladiators, but it is not well known under any name.

Their modern centre of endemism is western South Africa and Namibia, although a relict population and Eocene fossils suggest a wider ancient distribution.

Members of the order are wingless even as adults, making them relatively difficult to identify. They resemble a mix between praying mantids and phasmids. Molecular evidence indicates that they are most closely related to a family known as the Grylloblattidae.[2]

The mantophasmids were originally described from old museum specimens that found in Namibia (Mantophasma zephyrum) and Tanzania (M. subsolanum), and from a 45-million-year-old specimen of Baltic amber (Raptophasma kerneggeri).

The most recent classification recognizes numerous genera, including fossils.[3]


  1. Primack, Richard B. (2006). Essentials of conservation biology (4th ed.). Sinauer Associates, Inc. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-87893-720-2 .
  2. Cameron S.L; Barker S.C. & Whiting M.F. (2006). "Mitochondrial genomics and the new insect order Mantophasmatodea". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38 (1): 274–279. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2005.09.020 . PMID 16321547 .
  3. Arill, A. & M. Engel 2006. Rock crawlers in Baltic amber (Notoptera: Mantophasmatodea). American Museum Novitates 3539:1-10[1]