Moss-mimicking mantid

A tw**t from The Featured Creature led me to a description of this mantid on their home page.

It may be Pogonogaster tristani, described in 1918, but information about it is very thin; there’s not even a type locality given in the Mantodea Species File, but it’s from the Neotropics.The FC website describes it, and how it was spotted and filmed only a month ago (the site also has more photos):

Back in 2012, photographer Oscar Blanco was lucky enough to spot this minute praying mantis that mimicked its mossy environment to perfection. Its abdomen is covered in leafy appendages that make it appear to be half plant, half insect. He snapped a few quick shots of it and then moved on. Little did he know, this was a species only known from a single text dating back to 1935.

Blanco met with an expert on mantises who traced the description of the little moss mantis back to the 1935 text by Rehn, which described a species very similar to it. However, there were no photographs or illustrations available so the species name is, currently, just an educated guess. Blanco and the expert decided that it might in fact be the elusive Pogonogaster tristani.

The mantis was not spotted again until October 6th, 2013 thanks to Blanco’s friend with hawk-like eyes who spotted another tiny specimen. The photo below shows (what they believe to be) a nymph of the species, though the adult probably does not get to be much bigger.


The color is perfect.


Photo by Oscar Blanco

It’s very small, but clearly cryptic, and I think the hypothesis of moss mimicry is correct.


photo: Oscar Blanco
website: MacroMicroPhoto:

And there’s a video, too:

When Blanco had the fortune of coming across the rare creature for a second time, he jumped on the chance to film it. Here we have (what might be) the only video footage of this spectacular mantis:

Be sure to visit Blanco’s website, MicroMacroPhoto, which has lovely pictures of insects and arachnids. His jumping spider pics are terrific, and we all love that kind of spider, don’t we?

UPDATE: Reader Lou Jost, a biologist working in Ecuador, saw this post and sent three pictures of a mantid taken in one of his study sites. There was also a note:

That moss mantid you posted looks much like this thing our reserve caretakers found and photographed in our Rio Zunac Reserve in eastern Ecuador. (Photo: Recalde/EcoMinga) But our thing seems not to be a mantis. And it is huge, not tiny.  Beautiful convergence.




h/t: Matthew Cobb


  1. Hempenstein
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:13 am | Permalink


  2. Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Amazing footage! What a beautiful and meticulous little groomer!

    • Posted November 13, 2013 at 6:59 am | Permalink

      If I ever get to Costa Rica, I must remember not to step on any moss.

  3. Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:07 am | Permalink

    The 2nd insect looks like a kind of walking stick. Very very cool.

    • jaxkayaker
      Posted November 13, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

      Agreed. I was about to post the same thing. Both are very cool.

      I found a deceased lichen-colored mantis once in Florida, and gave it to another instructor. I should have either kept the specimen or at least taken a picture. I’ll see if I can find another specimen in the springtime.

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    It’s surprising how tiny the little moss mantis is since I’m so used to our much larger ones.

    We all do like jumping spiders but if they were much bigger, some of us would be terrified.

  5. uglicoyote
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Road.

  6. otas32
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    Greetings from Costa Rica.
    I wanted to say thanks for the feature! 🙂

    And invite you to keep watch on my website just in case you want to feature more cool tiny creatures! 🙂

    Indeed, I believe the other insect is a stick insect. I believe it’s Trychopeplus laciniatus.
    Here are some pics of one found in Colombia:

    Oscar Blanco

    • Posted November 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      Oscar, thanks for the ID and congratulations on your beautiful photography.

  7. Posted November 13, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    How beautiful this creature is, in rather the same way as the gorgeous Sea Dragons from Australia.

  8. raimas
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    The original description of Pogonogaster tristrani is available online here at BHL. The type is a female, collected somewhere in Costa Rica, 1600 m asl. It’s length is 25.5 mm.
    There are also illustrations of the abdomen with its characteristic appendages, the head and the front legs (plates XVIII and XX at the end of the volume).
    That should help with identification.

  9. Alec McClay
    Posted November 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

    You have to love the colour names in that description (see link from Raimas above): antimony yellow … dull buckthorn brown … washed with ferruginous … weak and pale turtle green … fuscous tipped … dull mummy brown … dresden brown.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      How true! Thanks for pointing that out.

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted November 14, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

      These colours are presumably named on a pre-Munsell reference card, which ought to be specified in the methods section of the paper (and maybe it is, I’m download-limited at the moment).

      • Alec McClay
        Posted November 14, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

        Yes, I suspected these came from a standard system rather than the author’s imagination. There is nothing mentioned in the methods section but it looks like they are from Ridgway’s “Color standards and color nomenclature”, published in 1912 – see

  10. marksolock
    Posted November 15, 2013 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

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