Ghost Mantid, Leaf Mantid Phyllocrania paradoxa
Family: Mantidae. Subfamily: Hymenopodidae
Garden in PretoriaDescriptionPhyllocrania paradoxa
is a mid-sized species reaching up to 5 cm in bodylength in both sexes (without wings). The variability of color is characteristic for this species, reaching from almost black to sandy yellow and green. Nontheless the animals are not plain-colored, but show a faint pattern of stipes and dots, which is only visible to the closer look. The habitus with its long, jagged vertex elongation and lobe-like appendages on the abdomen and the walking legs is based on a leaf. The veins of the wings, which are mostly transparent, help with this imitation.Phyllocrania paradoxa
is easily sexed. First the males have 8 abdominal sements, the females have only 6. A further distinguishing mark is the "crown" (vertex elongation). In females, it is rather wide, not jagged and shows a slight median bend to the left. The male's crown is longer, more slender and jagged. In addition, the male's wings reach over the abdomen, which is not the case in females. The antannea of the male are longer then the female's, too. The sexual dimorphism of the crown can be already used in larvae.
Ghost mantids, like many other insects that rely on leaf-like camouflage, display an ungodly degree of polymorphism, and no two specimens are alike. Distribution
KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, to Namibia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and East Africa, throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar .
Links: Checklist: The Praying Mantises (Mantodea: Mantidae) of South Africa