Leo Lanna
Leo Lanna and Lvcas Fiat under a full moon night during :Austral expedition, Amazonia of Brazil Author: Leo Lanna
2023

Leo Lanna

Artist/Conservationist

Praying Mantis Magic

meet leo

Leo Lanna is a Brazilian scientist, National Geographic Explorer, and TED speaker whose primary focus is searching for praying mantises in tropical rainforests by night. Through his Projeto Mantis, he leads expeditions in Amazonia and the Atlantic Rainforest, some of our planet’s most endangered ecosystems, and advocates for the mysterious diversity found in darkness. Lanna believes biological sciences are not only about data but also the intrinsic connection scientists develop to the living beings they research. It is for this reason that he cares for every mantis he has collected until its natural death.

Praying Mantis Magic
Nominated by: Joe Grabowski FI'18
Class of 2023 Location Brazil
Extraordinary biofluorescence of a Brazilian hooded mantis, Choeradodis rhomboidea
Extraordinary biofluorescence of a Brazilian hooded mantis, Choeradodis rhomboidea Author: Leo Lanna and Lycas Fiat

Under the veil of night, rainforests enter a new dimension—one that is both spectacular and ephemeral. With flashlights and cameras, I have had the privilege of exploring this labyrinth of wonders, searching for new and rare species of praying mantises. As they are silent, scentless, and camouflaged animals, my search for them demands a delicate connection to the environment if we are to unveil its extraordinary biodiversity.

I founded Projeto Mantis in collaboration with my partner and husband, Lvcas Fiat. Through a blending of science and art, we have embarked on a multidisciplinary approach in advocating for conservation and rainforest exploration. Our science is slow-paced with a rare no-kill protocol that supports our educational and environmental awareness outreach. Through documentaries; our lectures in museums, schools, and universities; and workshops and online campaigns, we aim to expand the impact of our work beyond scientific academia.

“Knowledge can rapidly change misconceptions of insects, and our stories are filled with emotion as we are deeply connected to the rainforests we call home.”

- Leo Lanna
Leo Lanna registering the environment at Caxiuanã National Forest in the Brazilian Amazonia
Leo Lanna registering the environment at Caxiuanã National Forest in the Brazilian Amazonia Author: Daniel Venturini & Marina Angeli

Mantises have become a flagship species for many people we have been able to touch, and we’re dedicated to remain a beacon of hope and inspiration within our country and field area. Knowledge can rapidly change misconceptions of insects, and our stories are filled with emotion as we are deeply connected to the rainforests we call home.

Most recently, our field research has come to focus on the world of mantises after nightfall. In 2018, National Geographic depicted a flower phenomenon beautifully captured by photographer Craig Burrows: biofluorescence. His artistic and scientifically intriguing photos left me stunned and curious. I asked: do mantises fluoresce? In 2021, when we traveled to Amazonia to document mantises under ultraviolet light, we discovered that mantises not only fluoresce, the whole jungle shines in every hue and color one can imagine! We were able to capture the largest set of biofluorescence ever—more than 250 species of animals, from frogs to opossums, snakes and tarantulas, to mantises, in brilliant light, in images that will be published later this year.

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