Citizen scientists track a charismatic carnivore: mapping the spread and impact of the South African Mantis (Miomantidae, Miomantis caffra) in Australia.
The recent integration of citizen science with modern technology has greatly increased its applications and has allowed more people than ever to contribute to research across all areas of science. In particular, citizen science has been instrumental in the detection and monitoring of novel introduced species across the globe. This study provides the first records of Miomantis caffra Saussure, 1871, the South African Mantis, from the Australian mainland and uses records from four different citizen science and social media platforms in conjunction with museum records to track the spread of the species through the country. A total of 153 wild mantises and oothecae were observed across four states and territories (New South Wales, Norfolk Island, Victoria, and Western Australia) between 2009 and 2021. The large number of observations of the species in Victoria and the more recent isolated observations in other states and territories suggest that the species initially arrived in Geelong via oothecae attached to plants or equipment, likely from the invasive population in New Zealand. From there it established and spread outwards to Melbourne and eventually to other states and territories, both naturally and with the aid of human transport. We also provide a comparison of M. caffra to similar native mantises, specifically Pseudomantis albofimbriata (Stål, 1860), and comment on the potential impact and further spread of the species within Australia. Finally, we reiterate the many benefits of engaging directly with citizen scientists in biodiversity research and comment on the decision to include them in all levels of this research investigation.