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New Praying Mantis Found Hidden in French Museum Collection

Jan 22, 2016 10:58 AM EST
Cornucollis masoalensis
A new genus and species of praying mantises with a distinctive horned neck were recently found in unidentified museum collections.
(Photo : Sydney Brannoch)

A praying mantis with a distinctive "horned neck" and flattened, cone-like eyes recently earned a new genus and species title of its own. This small, leaf-dwelling mantis was originally collected from Madagascar in 2001, but until recently it remained unnamed at France's Museum of Natural History.

"Identifying a unique praying mantis hidden among other species was unexpected and exciting," lead author Sydney Brannoch, a Case Western Reserve University graduate student working at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, said in a news release. "There are untold numbers of species new to science sitting in cabinets and cases within natural history museums around the world. Often these specimens have been overlooked, in some cases for centuries. The discovery of this new praying mantis ultimately highlights the need for continued research in museum collections."

Branch and co-author Dr. Gavin Svenson were lent the French collection for another researcher project they were working on. However, after noticing the creature's peculiarities and the unusual habitat from which it had been collected - the leaves of an unidentified tree in Tampolo, Madagascar - they were interested in learning more. 

After comparing the specimen to various other museum collection materials, Branch and Svenson decided to name the new genus Cornucollis, which reflects the mantis' horn-like projections extending from its neck. The new species was given the name Cornucollis masoalensi, after the locality where the mantis was originally collected.

This particular mantis is categorized under the subfamily Tropidomantinae, which is comprised of smaller, usually green mantises that appear to live on broad-leafed plants. Researchers believe Cornucollis masoalensi generally resides on the undersides of such leaves.

"Museum collections hold hidden treasures of biodiversity," Dr. Svenson, curator of invertebrate zoology at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and adjunct assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University, added. "A closer look can reveal species never before recognized as unique."

Cornucollis masoalensis is particularly small for a praying mantis, roughly only 24 millimeters in length, and pale in color with speckled patches on its head and opaque, well-developed wings.

Their findings were recently published in the journal ZooKeys.

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