One of our captive Mantis religiosa shed his skin last night, in a dangerous and delicate procedure called ecdysis. Hard-shelled insects and other arthropods must do this periodically to grow in size. This particular mantis had grown full-length wings beneath his juvenile skin, and when he emerged, he had long wings instead of short. Insects and spiders have to carefully draw their new, still-soft antennae, legs and palps out of their old skin. Then they expand in size while their new exoskeleton is still soft. It gradually dries and hardens. This mantis probably won’t molt again, having reached his full adult size. Spiders and some other arthropods can replace missing legs by growing new ones that appear when they molt.
A size comparison between the adult and its shed skin.
The curious mantis in the morning, after ecdysis. He is much larger than he was yesterday.
Insects and other arthropods wear their skeletons on the outside.
The shed skin showing the serrated spines of the raptorial front legs.
The newly emerged mantis’ foot, showing the tarsal claws.
The shed skin of the foot preserves all the detail, including the tarsal claws and sensory hairs.
Even the long, hair thin antennae were carefully withdrawn from the old exoskeleton, leaving unbelievably thin empty tubes.
The shed skin of the head, including the long, delicate antennae.
The empty abdomen of the cast skin.
A magnified view of the shed skin, showing the hole in the back of the thorax where the insect broke free. Note the translucence of the skin, and the details of the four wings.
A close up of the veins in the adult wings. They’re still pale because the insect has just molted. As its exoskeleton dries, the green color will intensify.
The tips of the new, full-length wings.
The long, delicate antennae were carefully pulled out of their old, tubular shells.
This species comes in both brown and green morphs.
A close up view of the wing buds on this brown morph, which hasn’t yet molted and grown to adult size. The new wings are forming underneath.
A close look at the juvenile wing buds or pads.