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Camouflaged Cryptic Mantis (80)
loot Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
Cryptic Mantis - Sibylla pretiosa

This mantid nymph, also known as the "Lichen Mantis", was photographed at Komatipoort, in the Mpumalanga province.

As is our usual custom we booked in at an overnight B&B, situated closely to the Kruger National Park, the day before we "officially" entered the park for our holiday. This year we stayed at the Komati River Chalets, which is near the southern border of the Kruger National Park, ±12km from the Crocodile Bridge gate. It is situated at the confluence of the Komati and Crocodile Rivers where a low-water causeway creates a little dam which is surrounded by the peaceful and tranquil setting of riverine bushveld vegetation with some very large shady trees. There is a little walkway with a number of rest points (benches) all along the route which follow the contours of the river. Here one can enjoy a relaxing river walk while viewing an abundance of birds, plants, and insects.

Actually it was never our intention to leisure around or to relax at the B&B. Normally when we arrive, at our overnight destination, we would quickly book in and then immediately depart to spend the afternoon inside the Kruger Park. However, when we arrived at the gate at Crocodile Bridge we were told that we couldn't enter, because the (Sunday) quota for daily visitors to the park was already exceeded. I mean…WHAT? The guard at the gate just wouldn't budge even after we showed him our reservation documents which reflected our whole 3 week itinerary and which would have commenced the following day. No matter how we tried, including a telephonic appeal to the camp manager from Crocodile Bridge and even after a sizable number of vehicles already left the park during the time we tried to get access, but to no avail. All our pleas just fell on deaf ears. This is the first time ever I ran into this bit of "red-tape" and boy-o-boy what a frustration. After ±447km I got told I cannot enter – to say the least, I wasn't a very happy chappy.

So, what else could we do, we just went back to the B&B to make the best of this unpleasant situation. That was when we decided to take a stroll along the river walkway. The camp mutt, a little Jack Russell crossed whatever, suddenly decided to befriend us and joined us in our walk. Of course Anna was in her element with all the insects and birds around. I decided to stop at one of the resting points to appreciate the view of the surroundings and that was when I "accidentally" noticed this little guy. I say "accidentally", because this mantis is so well camouflaged that it was pure luck that I saw it. I was leaning against the tree to photograph some Herons, sitting in a tree opposite the river, when I became aware of a slight movement, barely noticeable, from the corner of my eye. And there it was sitting on the side of a tree. The image was turned 90° counter clockwise and cropped to ±75% of the original size. It is unfortunate that the dried twig from an adjacent tree had to creep into the BG though.

That evening we had a wonderful dinner at the Border Country Inn, with Robin Du Bois and his wife Carin, who came all the way from Nelspruit to meet with us. The next day there was no refusal to allow us entry to the Kruger Park. They wouldn't dare to try and stop me then for I would have driven straight through the booms.

Notes update – 17/01/2010: Thanks to Ivan Kruys who alerted me to the fact that this might be a TrekNature 1st. Indeed so it is. After a thorough search thru the gallery I came to the conclusion that this species have never before been posted on the site.

Taxonomic Classification

KINGDOM
: Animalia (animals)
PHYLUM: Arthropoda (invertebrates)
CLASS: Insecta (insects)
ORDER: Mantodea (praying mantises: consisting of 9 families and ±2,200 species)
FAMILY: Mantidae (mantids: referring only to members of Mantidae, not the 8 remaining families of mantises)

Description
Size: medium, length (M) 45mm (F) 60mm.

They have unusual leaf-like projections on the joint of their four walking legs. Head with large, forked dorsal spike armed with a pair of lateral teeth. Adults are distinguished from most other mantis species by their leaf-like wings, generally the only green portion of the mantid's otherwise brown and mottled exoskeleton. The spines on the raptorial forelimbs are long and needlelike. The thorax is very elongate, slender and cylindrical, with sharp lateral lobes. The lifespan is likely to be a year and a few months.

Biology
Cryptic, moving around on the bark of trees and feeding on other insects that share this specialised habitat.

Distribution
Ethiopia, Kenya, Congo, Malawi, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia, Swaziland, Namibia, northern Zimbabwe, South Africa: KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and Northern Province.

Habitat
Tree trunks.

Food
The mantid almost exclusively eats flying prey, with fruit flies being the food of preference for young nymphs. Adults and 5th or 6th instar nymphs can tackle much larger prey, such as house flies, small bees and moths.

Conservation status
Common. Least concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Source: "Field Guide to Insects of South Africa" by Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths and Alan Weaving, from Struik Publishers. With additional information extracted from Wikipedia - Sibylla_pretiosa, also Wikipedia – Mantodea, and their List of Mantis Genera and Species.

Post Processing was done with Adobe Photoshop CS2.

Altered Image #1

loot Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5524 W: 722 N: 4163] (11276)
Neat Image
Edited by:batu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 1079 W: 293 N: 4497] (16383)

- noise reduction
- adjustment of file size
Peter