Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Mantodea
Family: Hymenopodidae
Subfamily: Epaphroditinae

Genus/species: Phyllocrania paradoxa

GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS: This is a miniature species of leaf mantis, growing to under 5 cm (2 in). Theses mantids exhibit sexual dimorphism with females being longer and having a wider abdomen than males. Colors can vary from grey/green to dark brown or almost black. Colors are dependent on humidity and light levels. Ghost mantids have leaf-like head and shoulder shields, and leaf-like protrusions hanging from their limbs. This “dead-leaf” appearance makes it very difficult to see. The scientific name is probably derived from Greek for “leaf “(phyllo) and Latin for “head” (crania).

Phyllocrania paradoxa6319511720_e34688f6b4_b

DISTRIBUTION/HABITAT: P. paradoxa are found in the warm, highly humid tropical forests of Tropical Africa including Madagascar, Mozambique, Namibia, and Somalia.

DIET IN THE WILD: This species will eat almost anything that moves, and it is very, very fast. When another insect comes within striking distance, the mantid flicks out the long front legs, and grabs it in a fraction of a second. They are remarkably patient, and will sit in the same position for weeks, just waiting for something to land near them.

DIET IN CAPTIVITY: Drosophila (fruit flies), houseflies, crickets, and flour worms.

MORTALITY and LONGEVITY: Generally a long-lived species.  Molt every 3–5 weeks, until the 4th and final molting.  Life span: up to 14 months in captivity.

REPRODUCTION: In general mantids reproductive organs are found at the tip of their abdomen. Females attract males with pheromones, there is a brief courtship dance, and the male alights on the female’s back. After delivering sperm, the male usually hurries away as females are known to consume their mates! After fertilization the female deposits batches of eggs, using an ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen. The eggs stick to stems and leaves, and each batch is housed in an egg case made from an abdominal secretion that hardens to protect the eggs from birds and other predators. After about a month the nymphs hatch and then molt several times, each time becoming more like the adult form. 

Juvenile below

Color of Life Note: Ghost mantids exhibit cryptic coloration (conceals or disguises an animal’s shape). They look like a vine draped on tree and bush branches.


LOCATION: Madagascar Rainforest


References. California Academy of Sciences Docent Rainforest Training Manual.

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