A friend was horrified to learn the other day that the praying mantis preys on hummingbirds.(And I'm not making this up, as noted in this Birdwatcher's Digest post.) Our conversation was sparked by my discovery of this large mantid hanging out on our front storm door. (You can see its size relative to a door handle in obvious need of polishing. I wanted to get a picture of it in comparison to my hand, which is about the same length as this particular insect, but decided against placing any of my body parts in close proximity to a wild carnivorous creature with a very small brain. Entomologist friends: do insects have brains?)
I pointed out that birds eat insects and spiders all the time, so perhaps it is only fair that birds are sometimes on the losing end of the food chain. (Yes, it turns out that our mantis is not the only invertebrate that sometimes craves an avian meal.) My friend, however, shuddered and noted that birds eating bugs was "the natural order of things." Which, of course, it is, but so is the hummingbird-eating mantis. Mother Nature doesn't seem to favor any one of her children over any of the others, even though all those diagrams in the science textbooks of my childhood showed homo sapiens as the pinnacle of evolution and the top of the food chain. Which, of course, is nonsense, as any biologist will tell us.