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In early August 2012, while strolling in the mountains of central Costa Rica, photographer Oscar Blanco spotted a tiny praying mantis. Adorned with leaf-like protrusions, the mantis perfectly mimicked its mossy habitat and it's pretty amazing that Blanco managed to spot the insect at all. It made for a great photographic subject, and after snapping a few macro shots of the mossy mimic, Blanco moved on. 

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Then the tale of the mantis took an interesting turn. To help identify the species, Blanco consulted a mantis expert. After a bit of speculation and a trip into the annals of entomology, the little moss mantis was tentatively indentified as the elusive Pogonogaster tristani, a Costa Rican species described in an early twentieth-century text written by Rehn as well-camouflaged “with its multi-lobed abdomen, its gnarled stick-like pronotum and limbs, and its dull yellow-green coloration.” Rehn's description seems pretty spot on. Unfortunately, he didn't include any photographs or illustrations of the species in his early description, so the identification has to remain an educated guess. 

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Right. Interesting stuff. Cased closed. Well, not quite ... Fuelled by his rare find, Blanco sought out the unique mantis and, with the help of a hawk-eyed friend, managed to find another specimen on October 6th, 2013. This time Blanco spent a bit more time with the unusual creature and captured what may be the only existing video footage of Pogonogaster tristani. Kudos to you for citizen science, Oscar! 

The specimen in the video below is believed to be a nymph of the species (although it's unlikely that the adults grow much bigger). Without a stabilising rig, it proved tricky to zoom in without a bit of shakiness and Blanco apologises in his video description for the unstable camerawork. Considering you may have captured the only footage in the world of this unique species, we'll let that detail slide, Oscar! 

Photos by Oscar Blanco

H/t: The Featured Creature