Confirmation of reproductive success of Rivetina baetica (Rambur, 1838) (Mantodea), a thermophilous species, in continental areas of Central Spain

Alberto Sánchez-Vialas*, Paula C. Rodríguez-Flores & Mario García-París

Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, MNCN-CSIC, c/José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, 28006, Madrid, Spain

*Corresponding author:



The presence of a population of Rivetina baetica baetica, a typically littoral taxon endemic to the southernmost regions of Spain and Portugal, was studied for two consecutive reproductive periods in a continental steppe area of Central Spain. Reproduction was successful, representing a considerable range expansion from previous records. Additionally, we revised the entomological collection of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN, Madrid) and available bibliographic records. We recover the only record of R. baetica published from Portugal raising the number of known species in the current Portuguese checklist to 12. Our observations demonstrate that the species is able to survive low winter temperatures at La Mancha Plateau (Ciudad Real).

Keywords: Mantodea; Geographic distribution; Steppes; Salt marshes; Iberian Peninsula.



Confirmación de la reproducción de Rivetina baetica (Rambur, 1838) (Mantodea), una especie termófila, en áreas continentales del centro de España

La presencia de una población de Rivetina baetica baetica, un taxon típicamente litoral endémico de las regiones más meridionales de España y Portugal, fue estudiada durante dos periodos de reproducción consecutivos en un área esteparia continental de España Central. La reproducción tuvo éxito, lo que representa una extensión considerable del área de distribución conocida. Adicionalmente, se revisó la colección entomológica del Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN, Madrid) y los registros bibliográficos disponibles. Recuperamos el único registro publicado de R. baetica en Portugal elevando a 12 el número de especies conocidas en la lista actual de especies portuguesas. Nuestras observaciones demuestran que la especie es capaz de sobrevivir a las bajas temperaturas invernales de la meseta manchega (Ciudad Real).

Palabras clave: Mantodea; Distribución Geográfica; Estepas; Saladares; Península Ibérica.


Recibido/Received: 3/08/2015; Aceptado/Accepted: 30/10/2015; Publicado en línea/Published online: 24/11/2015

Cómo citar este artículo/Citation: Sánchez-Vialas, A., Rodríguez-Flores, P. C. & García-París, M., 2015. Confirmation of reproductive success of Rivetina baetica (Rambur, 1838) (Mantodea), a thermophilous species, in continental areas of Central Spain. Graellsia, 71(2): e035.

Copyright: © 2015 SAM y CSIC. Salvo indicación contraria, todos los contenidos de la edición electrónica de Graellsia se distribuyen bajo licencia de uso y distribución Creative Commons Reconocimiento no Comercial 3.0. España (cc-by-nc).




The Iberian Peninsula, situated within the Mediterranean biodiversity hot-spot (Myers et al., 2000), presents a characteristic fauna influenced by both the African and the Euro-Siberian regions. As a consequence a relatively large set of species present in northern Africa also inhabit the warmest areas of the Iberian Peninsula, particularly along the Mediterranean coast (Recuero et al., 2007; Pleguezuelos et al., 2008). This is the case of some species of praying mantises (Mantodea), particularly Sphodromantis viridis (Forsskål, 1775) and Rivetina baetica (Rambur, 1838) (La Greca & Lombardo, 1982; Battiston et al., 2012; Marabuto et al., 2014).

Rivetina Berland & Chopard, 1922 (Mantidae: Miomantinae) includes more than 30 species, most of them distributed on the Western Palaearctic, from Southern Europe and North-western Africa to Pakistan and Tajikistan, but also expanding along the Atlantic coast in western Africa to Senegal (Wieland, 2013; Caesar et al., 2015; Otte et al., 2015). The Middle East harbours the largest diversity of species of Rivetina, while only one species is present in Africa and the Western Mediterranean region (La Greca & Lombardo, 1982). The distribution of the species of Rivetina is often limited to xerothermic environments. Most species present morphological adaptations to these environments, including constant brown or pale colorations (never green), opaque and rugose cuticular surfaces, extra-sclerotized portions of the 7th abdominal segment in females (used to facilitate excavation for egg deposition) and underground oothecae deposition. In Asia the genus is represented in steppes and sub-desert areas, in Northern Africa it occupies a broad area along the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts, including deep inland populations (Chad), while its range in Europe is limited to discontinuous xerothermic environments, including dune systems, near the coast (La Greca & Lombardo, 1982).

Rivetina baetica (Fig. 1), the westernmost species of the genus, includes two subspecies, R. b. tenuidentata La Greca & Lombardo, 1982, widely distributed in Africa and R. b. baetica an endemic subspecies to the Iberian Peninsula (La Greca & Lombardo, 1982). In the Iberian Peninsula its distribution is limited to xerothermic regions close to the Mediterranean Sea, in Portugal (Fernandes, 1960) and the Spanish provinces of Barcelona, Castellón, Valencia, Alicante, Murcia, Almería, Granada, Málaga, Cádiz and Huelva, with limited inland expansions to the province of Albacete (La Greca & Lombardo, 1982; Gómez et al., 1991; MG-P pers. obs.).

Fig. 1.— Latest male nymphal stage of Rivetina baetica baetica at the margin of Laguna de Las Yeguas (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real) (Photograph PCR-F).
Fig. 1.— Último estadio ninfal de un macho de Rivetina baetica baetica en las márgenes de la Laguna de Las Yeguas (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real) (Fotografía PCR-F).


In this article we provide the first records and document the reproductive success of R. b. baetica in La Mancha, a markedly continental area in Central Spain (Fig. 2). We also revise the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN) entomological collection in order to confirm previous localities and to check for the antiquity of the available records. Furthermore, we recover the only record of R. baetica published from Portugal raising the number of known species in the current Portuguese checklist, and provide a new record north of the Ebro River in Barcelona expanding its known distribution.

Fig. 2.— Map of the Iberian Peninsula showing known localities for Rivetina baetica baetica. Black dots represent data from collections (MNCN), bibliographic records, and unpublished individual observations. The yellow dot corresponds to the population located at Las Yeguas (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real). The open circle indicates a bibliographic provincial record without precise locality (Province of Huelva). Dotted line represents the limit between the Thermomediterranean and Mesomediterranean bioclimatic zones in the Iberian Peninsula (Rivas-Martínez, 1983, 1987).
Fig. 2.— Mapa de la Península Iberica con las localidades conocidas de Rivetina baetica baetica. Los puntos negros representan datos de colecciones (MNCN), registros bibliográficos y observaciones personales. El punto amarillo corresponde a la población de la Laguna de Las Yeguas (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real). El círculo vacío indica un registro bibliográfico provincial impreciso (Provincia de Huelva). La línea punteada representa el límite entre las zonas bioclimáticas termomediterránea y mesomediterránea en la Península Ibérica (Rivas-Martínez, 1983, 1987).


We monitored 27 small lakes and marshes through La Mancha region, from April 2014 to August 2015, to follow up populations of endemic to, or endangered arthropods in Castilla - La Mancha. This study was part of a broader monitoring study of salt marshes and gypsum flats of La Mancha region, within the Life Project: La Mancha Wetlands (LIFE+10 NAT/ES/000563), aimed to restore the Lygeum spartum (L.) Kunth grasslands and salt flats by reclaiming Mediterranean salt steppes (Limonietalia) designated as a priority habitat (1510) by Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC, and other halophytic formations in the La Mancha wetlands. During the forementioned period, we observed and monitored a population of R. b. baetica at the Natural Reserve of the lakes and salt marshes of Alcázar de San Juan, in the Province of Ciudad Real, near the protected salt lake of Las Yeguas (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3.— Halophytic prairies dominated by Suaeda vera at Las Yeguas (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real) where Rivetina baetica baetica was found, in a typically continental area of Central Spain (Photograph PCR-F).
Fig. 3.— Praderas halófilas dominadas por Suaeda vera en Las Yeguas (Alcázar de San Juan, Ciudad Real) donde se localizó la población de Rivetina baetica baetica, en un área continental del centro de España (Fotografía PCR-F).


Published information on the Iberian populations of R. baetica was checked following the revision of La Greca & Lombardo (1982). In orther to determine the antiquity of the published records, and to obtain new data on its geographic range we revised the entomological collection of the MNCN.

The observations of R. b. baetica made at Las Yeguas Natural Reserve correspond to: 17-V-2014 (39°24′34″N-3°17′02″W, 634 m), 15 specimens in early nymphal stages, running on the ground on prairies dominated by Suaeda vera Forssk. ex J.F. Gmel., 1776; 24-V-2014 (39°24′37″N-3°17′00″W, 635 m), two nymphs in similar circumstances; and, 20-VI-2015 (39°24′46″N- 3°16′50″O, 635 m), one adult female, placed near the shed of the latest nymphal stage, and two specimens at last nymphal stages, one of them feeding on a spider of small size (similar to the mantis head, Fig. 1).

The study of the entomological collection of the MNCN provide us with 53 Iberian specimens of Rivetina baetica (most of them under the name Rivetina fasciata Thunberg, 1815) containing the following data: Albacete: Molinicos: 2 female [MNCN]; Alicante: Cox: VI-1934, 4 females, 5 nymphs [MNCN]; Orihuela: 5 females (Andreu leg.) [MNCN]; Orihuela: 4 females, 1 male [MNCN]; Almería: Huércal-Overa: VII-1942, 1 male (E. Mor. [Morales leg.]) [MNCN]; Huércal-Overa: VII-1942, 1 female [MNCN]; Huércal-Overa: La Ballabona: VI-1944, 1 female (E. Mor. [Morales leg.]) (R. baetica Rambur La Greca det.) [MNCN]; Barcelona: Sarrià-Sant Gervasi: Bonanova: 3 nymphs (H. Senén leg.) [MNCN]; Cádiz: Cádiz: 1 female (A. Benítez leg.) [MNCN]; Castellón de la Plana: Navajas: 1 female (Boscá leg.) [MNCN]; Villarreal: 1 female (Royo leg.) [MNCN]; Granada: Puebla de Don Fadrique: 1 female (J. Andréu leg.) [MNCN]; Trevenque, 1700 m: VII-1964, 1 female (F. Fdz. Rubio leg.) [MNCN]; Málaga: Carratraca: 1 female (Caparrós leg.) [MNCN]; Torremolinos: 1 female, 1 male [MNCN]; Torremolinos: 17-VII-1985, 2 males [MNCN]; Torremolinos: 26-VIII-1985, 1 female [MNCN]; Murcia: Abanilla: VI-1934, 1 male [MNCN]; Caravaca: 1 female (J. Andreu leg.) [MNCN]; Cartagena: 3 females (Sánchez Gómez leg.) (R. baetica Rambur La Greca det.) [MNCN]; Lorca: Zarcillo de Ramos: VII-1932, 3 females (J. Espín) [MNCN]; Murcia: 1 female (Andreu leg.) [MNCN]; Sierra Espuña: Río Pliego: 2 females, 2 males (G. Menor leg.) [MNCN]; Valencia: Valencia: 2 female (Boscá leg.) [MNCN].

Two additional observations were made at: Alicante: La Vila Joiosa: Pantà de l’Amadòrio, 134 m, 38°33′13″N-0°15′55″W: 30-VIII-1979, 1 female (M. García-París obs.); Cádiz: Puerto de Santa María: Playa de Valdelagrana, 9 m, 36°34′30″N-6°13′19″O: 23-VIII-1977, 1 female (M. García-París obs.) (today urban area).

Based on the data figured on the labels, or in the period of activity of the collectors, we conclude that most of the material held at the MNCN collection correspond to speciemens collected in the first third of the XXth century. The collections was, at least in part, revised by La Greca and most of the records included in the revision by La Greca & Lombardo (1982). Two exceptions are the materials from the provinces of Cádiz and Barcelona. The three nymphs from today’s urban area of Barcelona represent the northernmost record for the species (Fig. 2), while the records from Cádiz fill a gap, between the published records of Huelva and Málaga (La Greca & Lombardo, 1982).

The presence of Rivetina baetica has not been documented in the last checklist of Mantodea from Portugal (Marabuto, 2014). We recover the only record available for the species in Portugal, in particular from the coastal areas in Sagres (Fernandes, 1960; La Greca & Lombardo, 1982), representing the most occidental record for the species in the Iberian Peninsula (Fig. 2), and raising the known species number of Mantodea in Portugal to 12.

Most of the records of the species are included within the thermomediterranean bioclimatic zone (Rivas-Martínez, 1983, 1987), with a few mountain localities in the provinces of Granada, Murcia and Albacete (MNCN collection, La Greca & Lombardo, 1982; Gómez et al., 1991) located within the mesomediterranean zone in dry areas of south-eastern Spain (Fig. 2).

The population of R. b. baetica observed near the salt lake of Las Yeguas (Fig. 3), survived for at least the winters of 2013 and 2014, since early nymphal stages were found in May 2014, and late nymphal stages in late June 2015. The presence of the shedding near the adult specimen, and the last nymphal stage specimens, suggests that the adult stage is achieved between June and July at this locality. All the specimens were found in a limited habitat patch, Suaeda vera prairies (Fig. 3), surrounded by the salt crust of the lake and ploughed fields.

The low arbustive vegetation cover, characteristic of the Suaeda vera prairies, allowing for a direct and strong insolation, represents a typically favourable habitat for R. b. baetica (Fernandes, 1960; La Greca & Lombardo, 1982; Gómez et al., 1991). Because of the strong sexual dimorphism shown by R. baetica, presenting females with reduced wings inadequate for flying, and its spawning behaviour, depositing the ootheca underground, it is highly unlikely that its presence in La Mancha was the result of accidental transportation.


We thank Pablo Pichaco for his hospitality in Alcazar de San Juan. His local knowledge and his help with the logistics were invaluable during the sampling. We thank Mercedes París and Amparo Blay for curatorial assistance at the MNCN collection. This study was possible thanks to the support from the Fundación Global Nature through the European Life European Community Project Humedales de La Mancha (LIFE10 NAT/ES/000563), Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment and to the Consejería de Medio Ambiente de Castilla - La Mancha for granting us with the necessary permits for the study of specimens.



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