Phyllocrania paradoxa, common name ghost mantis, is a small species of mantis from Africa remarkable for its leaf-like body. It is one of the three species in the genus Phyllocrania. It is known for its distinct and exclusive camouflaged appearance of a dry weathered leaf.
Compared to many other praying mantises, the ghost mantis is a “miniature species” growing to only about 45 to 50 millimetres (1.8 to 2.0 in) long.
It comes in various brownish shades from very dark brown (almost black) to greenish gray. An individual’s colors change between molts and are also dependent on light and humidity levels.
Phyllocrania paradoxa is camouflaged so as to appear as dead, dried-up leaf material. It has an elongated head, a flattened, extended prothorax and leaf-like protrusions from its limbs. The mantis also has a forewing that looks like a desiccated leaf, and the “creases” in the wings are actually shadings of pigment. In the wild, the ghost praying mantis effectively blends in against dead leaves. Predators such as birds tend to overlook insects that resemble their background, and by staying still the ghost praying mantis can go unnoticed.
If threatened, big nymphs and adult females adopt thanatosis, i.e. they play dead, whereas adult males run or fly away.