A strange-looking new species of scorpionfly has been identified

Credit: University of Göttingen/R Willmann

Previously undiscovered species of scorpionflies native to Nepal have been described and documented by Professor Rainer Willmann, former Director of the Zoological Museum at the University of Göttingen. Willmann has coined the term “Lulilan” for this group of animals, making it the first of its kind. His work was included in the issue of Contributions to Entomology when it was published.

Newly discovered scorpionflies have a look that could not be more unusual according to scientist and author, Dr. Willmann.

A huge mating organ with long, grabbing pincers is located at the end of the males’ spindly, extended abdomens.

The insects are unusually huge, with a body length of more than three centimeters. Professor Jochen Martens of the University of Mainz and Dr. Wolfgang Schawaller of the University of Stuttgart are credited with capturing the insects. Only one such species has ever been identified, and that was precisely 200 years ago.

According to Willmann, scorpionflies are perfectly safe to humans, despite their dangerous-sounding name.  They were given that name because their genitalia, which are circular, resemble a scorpion’s sting. Moreover, their head is noticeably longer, giving them a unique appearance.

Only a few number of scorpionfly species may be found in Europe. In addition to the known species, other species of Lulilan presumably exist in Nepal and the neighboring regions. Females of a few species are the only ones the researchers have information on at this time. However, unlike the males, the females lack these identifying characteristics, making categorization more challenging.

Only the Leptopanorpa species found in Sumatra, Java, and Bali have evolved such a unique abdomen compared to other known scorpionflies. It’s not a close relative of Lulilan, though.

Willmann calls this an extraordinary example of parallel emergence of characteristics possibly in response to similar evolutionary stresses.


Willmann R (2022) Neue Skorpionsfliegen (Mecoptera, Panorpidae) aus Nepal. Contributions to Entomology 72(2): 309-320. https://doi.org/10.3897/contrib.entomol.72.e97277