The Rainbow Mantis: Pseudosquilla ciliata
Pseudosquilla ciliata is a spearer that is very common world wide (except the west coast of the Americas) and is probably the stomatopod that is best able to match the color of its background. P. ciliata is frequently yellow in color.
Also common are greens and browns, often with stripes down the back. If you put a yellow animal in a live reef tank with a fair amount of brown and green, it will change after a molt or two. This species lives in burrows that it digs (like Odontodactylus scyllarus) and occurs from intertidal to at least 40 m. Perhaps its strangest behavioral feature is that the males are coy and the females are sexually very aggressive often "raping" the males. They do well in tanks, but are death on small fish.
The orange colored P. ciliata above shows off its ability to change color and pattern, although it usually takes a few months and one or more molts to create a color change. It is not well understood what conditions could promote the change to the solid orange color, but it might be low visibility, silt laden water. It is not uncommon to find P. ciliata burrowing in muck and Dr Caldwell has seen orange ones in areas like the Lembeh Straits.
During a collecting trip at Lizard Island, Australia Dr Caldwell caught four P. ciliata on a reef flat exposed during the lowest tide of the year. Two were bright yellow orange, one was dark green (almost black) and one had brown and white longitudinal stripes. He also saw one other that was black and white striped. Such variation is common on colorful reef flats with lots of coral, coralline algae and sponge.
Web Site Author: A. San Juan
Site Created February 3, 1998