Praying Mantis vs Lizard: The 5 Key Differences

Written by Heather Hall
Updated: September 21, 2022
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Key Points:

  • Perhaps the most obvious difference between a praying mantis and a lizard is that the former is an insect, and the latter is a reptile. Lizards can measure anywhere from 2 cm up to 10 feet long, while the praying mantis does not grow over 6 inches long.
  • The average lifespan of the praying mantis is 6 months to a year, and there are 1,800 species of them worldwide. In comparison, there are 4,675 species of lizards, and some can live up to 100 years.
  • Lizards respond to predators in various ways like hissing, puffing up the body, whipping their tails, and changing color. The praying mantis is more likely to hide, using camouflage to blend into its environment.

When most people think of ferocious predators, lizards like the Komodo dragon might come to mind with their fearsome jaws and huge build. However, despite being consistently aggressive during hunting, the praying mantis may not even get a second thought. Interestingly, these two animals battle each other more often than you might think, and each one is equally capable of taking the other down.

Both of these animals have species that live around the world, though they are both found in warm deserts. In fact, both thrive in warmer climates, and they even have a relatively similar range of temperaments. Other than the obvious difference in their classification, what other ways are these two animals different?

Comparing Praying Mantis vs Lizard

In the following chart, you can get an idea of how the praying mantis and the lizard differ. Despite being in completely different families within the animal kingdom, these two animals are both comprised of many different species with aggressive hunting techniques. However, considering that there are so many species that cover these two animals, the range of everything from their size to their lifespan is quite broad.

Praying Mantis Lizard
Size 1-6 inches long 2cm to 10 feet
Lifespan 6 months to 1 year 1 to 100+ years
Habitat Warmer regions, including deserts, grasslands, and meadows. Deserts, forests, marshes, rocky areas, and prairies.
Number of species 1,800 4,675
Animal Family Insect Reptile
Temperament Varies can be either aggressive or calm. Varies may be friendly or shy.

The 5 Key Differences Between the Praying Mantis and the Lizard

To fully grasp the difference between these animals, here are a few of the key differences that separate the animals.

Praying Mantis vs Lizard: The Skin They’re In

The most easily identifiable feature of the reptile is his scaly skin. Regardless of which of the many species that you hear about, their skin is layered with epidermal scales. These scales are strengthened by their natural keratin, and they are often quite leathery in their texture. They often have quite a range of colors, including brown, bright green, and even orange. They can change colors with their surroundings, which is a feature that the chameleon is particularly known for.

The skin of the praying mantis is nothing more than an exoskeleton, often found in green or brown. These colors are necessary to blend in with leaves and other foliage while hunting. Though they are naturally camouflaged, they cannot change color as most lizards can.

Praying Mantis vs Lizard: Bone Structure

Lizards have a completely internal bone structure, though there are some species that may have bony scales. They are particularly unique from other reptiles in that they have a quadrate bone, which is a bone within the skull that is part of the upper jaw.

The praying mantis, on the other hand, exclusively has an exoskeleton. There are no bones inside their body because their exoskeleton provides that support for them.

Praying Mantis vs Lizard: Shedding Their External Protection

Interestingly, both of these animals shed their skin as they grow. Rather than going through a nymph phase, the praying mantis simply eliminates the exoskeleton when they grow too large for it. While this shedding stage is particularly risky for the praying mantis if they are attacked, the lizard has a unique shedding mechanism that never leaves them unprotected.

This reptile doesn’t shed all at once. Instead, they slough their skin, coming off in multiple fragments. They can even shed their tails and partially regenerate them.

Praying Mantis vs Lizard: What’s for Dinner?

The praying mantis has a diet that primarily consists of other insects, though they are quite aggressive in the hunt. Interestingly, many of these insects are also quite delectable to the lizard, like crickets, grasshoppers, butterflies, and beetles. Sometimes, they will even each other praying mantises. They have an incredibly carnivorous appetite, and there are some species that will feed on birds, small reptiles (like the lizard), and small mammals.

Lizards only have a few insects that they primarily consume, like ants and spiders. There are even some species that will eat shelled animals, like the snail. However, they will also go after small mammals and other lizards. With the many different species, lizards primarily stand out in that they are omnivorous, rather than engaging exclusively in eating meat.

Praying Mantis vs Lizard: Defense Mechanisms

Many lizards go straight to hissing to let predators know that they should stay back. There are other methods that vary by the particular species, which include puffing up the body, whipping their tail, and changing color, though the latter is a much less aggressive move.

The praying mantis primarily relies on hiding from predators to survive. They’ll use camouflage to blend in better, though they may also use this method to trick unsuspecting prey. Some species have colorful patterns that they use to distract predators.

As helpful as these forms of defense can be, they may not stand up against each other. After all, videos and substantial research show that the praying mantis has the power to take down many types of lizards. Plus, the lizard may put the praying mantis on the menu for their meal as well.

Praying Mantis vs Lizard: Behavior

Praying mantises’ movements are slow and calculated, and when they do travel, their body appears to rock back and forth, a movement that imitates a leaf quivering in the breeze. And humans have dubbed them as “friendly” insects. They are not averse to being held, and some people keep them as pets.

Lizards are also popular pet choices. They tend to be alert, inquisitive, and docile when raised in captivity, even to the point of being petted. But most lizards in the wild are shy and jumpy and will dart away quickly when disturbed. Some species of lizards are venomous, and can also be aggressive.

Up Next…

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About the Author

I am a freelance writer with 22 years of experience. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am surrounded by nature. When I go for my daily runs I often see herds of elk, deer, and bald eagles. I am owned by two dogs who take me on hikes in the mountains where we see coyotes, black bears, and wild turkeys.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Can a mantis kill a lizard?

Yes. The praying mantis is known as a predatory insect, which means that it can go after rather sizeable prey. Apart from lizards, the mantis will also go after frogs and mice (among other species).

Can lizards eat mantis?

Yes. However, lizards tend to go for mantises that are smaller than the adults or even the young. The naturally spiky legs and fighting methods of the praying mantis make them rather hard for a lizard to take down when they reach their full size.

Do praying mantis eat Gecko?

Though it isn’t typical for a praying mantis to go after a gecko, they will! They are astute hunters and will go after many types of reptiles.

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