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Male scorpionfly on a blade of grass

Newly Discovered Scorpionfly Genus with Bizarre Appearance

Entomologist describes new large insect species from Nepal with unusual genitalia

by University of Göttingen
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Zoologist professor Rainer Willmann, former director of the Zoological Museum at the University of Göttingen, has described and classified previously unknown species of scorpionflies from Nepal. These species belong to a completely new genus, for which Willmann has introduced the name “Lulilan.” His paper was published in the journal Contributions to Entomology.

"The appearance of the newly discovered scorpionflies could hardly be more bizarre," says Willmann. The males have a spindly, extremely elongated abdomen, at the end of which is a large organ—with long, grasping pincers—for mating. The insects have a body length of more than three centimeters, meaning they are particularly large. The insects were captured by the Mainz zoologist professor Jochen Martens and his colleague from Stuttgart Dr. Wolfgang Schawaller. Until now, only one such species was known and that was discovered exactly 200 years ago.

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"Despite their dangerous-sounding name, scorpionflies are completely harmless to humans," says Willmann. Their name comes from their spherical genital segment, which looks like the sting of a scorpion. They also have a distinctive, elongated head. In Europe, there are only a few species of scorpionflies. "More species of Lulilan probably exist in Nepal and the surrounding regions," Willmann says. So far, only the females of some types are known. Unlike the males, however, the females have none of these characteristic features, meaning that classification is more difficult.

From the scorpionflies that have already been described, only the genus Leptopanorpa, which is native to Sumatra, Java, and Bali, has developed such a distinctive abdomen. However, it is not closely related to Lulilan. "This is an amazing example where similar characteristics emerge independently, perhaps in response to similar evolutionary pressures," says Willmann.

- This press release was originally published on the University of Göttingen website