In the lush forests of the mountainous Nyungwe National Park situated southwest of Rwanda, a group of scientists were in the middle of a three-week expedition in search of new insect species when they chanced upon a pair of unidentified variety of praying mantises.

While having a stop-over on a dark and damp night, the team found a winged male mantis on the ground near one of the metal halide light system they had earlier setup to attract and trap tiny insects nearby. Shortly, a female mantis sprung up in the litter of leaves just in close proximity with where the team found the male insect. Both were immediately kept in small cubical screen enclosures for monitoring.

As luck would have it, the team also discovered that the female specimen carried an ootheca, a porous dark brown egg case, which gave an opportunity for the researchers to witness a complete life cycle of newly-discovered mantises. The eggcase was placed in an incubator of humid container in order for the first instar nymphs to develop properly.

"We knew this mantis was special after completing nearly eight months of work to identify all the specimens found during the three week expedition," said Riley Tedrow, a third-year student of evolutionary biology at Case Western Reserve University and also one of the lead researchers. "The new species is amazing because the fairly small female prowls through the underbrush searching for prey while the male flies and appears to live higher in the vegetation."

The newly-discovered mantises are bestowed the scientific name Dystacta tigrifrutex, or bush tiger mantis for its common name, after the female tiger bush's familiar hunting method closely resembling that of the feline family-catching prey either close to the ground or in the bushes. The bush tiger mantis adds to the 2,500 described species of the diverse group of praying mantises in the order Mantodea.

Though very closely related to the Dystacta alticeps species, the bush tiger mantises are shorter, have fewer spines and they can be distinguished by distinct marks on their prosternum, or the part of the body where the front legs are attached. Female bush tiger mantises do not have wings and are quite bigger than the male ones.

The full study [pdf] about the newfound mantis species can be found in the journal ZooKeys.

The two specimens are now pinned after the male died within 12 hours of captivity and the female following suit two weeks later, when its large abdomen was allegedly "spoiled in the field or during transport."

The scientists plan to return to Nyungwe, Africa's best preserved rainforest, in June to search for more mantises and find out more about their habitat. They also hope to return with more new species, just as what they did after capturing a dozen of unknown insects aside from the bush tiger mantises.

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