This amazing insect is an adult female DEAD LEAF PRAYING MANTIS, known by its scientific name of Deroplatys dessicata, which originates in Malaysia and neighbouring south-eastern Asian countries.
There are several species of dead leaf praying mantis and all use their remarkable appearance and camouflage skills to lie in wait for unsuspecting insects and other small animals, before striking out and catching them with their powerful and spiny front legs which you can see clearly below!
Here is a large nymph demonstrating the typical mantis gripping and feeding technique; once an insect (in this case a large cricket) is trapped in those powerful front legs they have very little chance of escape!
Adult males of this species are much more slender than the females, as is quite common amongst praying mantises:
In 2013 I had success at breeding this species at my first attempt which was extremely pleasing and exciting! A total of five oothecae (egg cases) were laid by the female and these all hatched between late April and November 2013! There are few things cuter than a baby praying mantis as you will see here:
It is always hard to be absolutely sure exactly how many nymphs (babies) hatch out of each ootheca because they do not stay still long enough to count, but certainly 40+ hatched on each of the four occasions! Here are just a few of them on the mesh screen lid of their enclosure:
As they will not stay still it is always quite a challenge to photograph even a single nymph, let alone a small group together, so I was particularly pleased to get the photos below of a group of five on my hand!
Here is a newly-hatched nymph alongside one of its siblings which had hatched just a few weeks previously, they are very fast growing!
It isn’t just praying mantises which use dead leaf camouflage to conceal themselves from predators. In December 2013 during my amazing trip to Costa Rica I encountered this amazing moth, which I initially refused to believe was anything other than a dead leaf
It wasn’t until it started crawling all over my arm that I could tell for certain that it was, but I had to take this photograph of it from the front to prove to others that it was actually a moth and not a leaf! Truly astonishing.