Predator as prey
Published in - Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXIV, No. 2, April, 2004

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The tables have been turned. This insect has actually killed and eaten a lizard! The gecko’s cryptic coloration, enormous eyes, dorso-ventrally flattened body and secretive lifestyle make it a successful predator. At home in the dark recesses of rocks and tree trunks, geckos virtually terrorise the insect community. Bugs, beetles, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, mantids – all are fair game! By endowing the gecko with such consummate hunting skills, nature seems to have weighted the odds against the insects. Or so I thought. On a summer morning in the Sanjay Gandhi National Park, I discovered that nothing in nature is predictable.

Together with some friends, I was watching a bright red Common Rosefinch male feeding on Calycopteris floribunda flowers when a movement on a nearby tree trunk diverted my attention. A closer look revealed a young gecko, a common sighting. But something in the gecko’s awkward position led me to look closer. When I was less than a metre away, I noticed blood oozing from its belly. What I saw next stunned me. The gecko was actually in the clutches of a perfectly camouflaged praying mantis and was slowly being consumed. This was the first time I was privy to this ‘nature as great leveler’ drama. While an adult gecko would be beyond the reach of a mantis, a baby must be extremely wary because it is fair game. I took my pictures and left, marveling at nature’s ability to spring surprises. Predator as prey! What next?

Camera: Nikon F50; Lens: 35-80 mm. Nikkor Lens with a +4 diopter; Film: Sensia 100 ASA (Fujichrome); Light Source: Built-in-flash