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Scientists found a new twisted-wing parasite species (Strepsiptera, Xenidae) in Gaoligong Mountains, Southwest China

Researchers from Kunming Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and China Agricultural University have found a new twisted-wing parasite species (Strepsiptera, Xenidae) in Gaoligong Mountains, Southwest China. The finding was published in ZooKeys on 2nd February.

The scientists confirmed the twisted-wing insects parasitizing respectively on two wasps (Vespa velutina and Vespa bicolor) collected from Gaoligong Mountains (China: Yunnan) in December 2019 as one species and associated its neotenic females and alate males by using nearly complete mitogenomes.

Combining the mitogenomic data (COI) with morphological traits, this species was identified to be a new species of the genus Xenos.

 “In memory of the late famous Chinese entomologist YANG Chikun, who made significant contributions to the studies on Strepsiptera in China, this new species is named as Xenos yangi Dong, Liu & Li (Chinese name: 杨氏胡蜂??)”, said Dr. LI Xueyan, an entomologist in Kunming Institute of Zoology. “The discovery of this new twisted-wing species suggests a richer Xenos species diversity in China. It will attract more eyes on twisted-wing insects”.

Gaoligong Mountains, locating in the Indo-Burma Biodiversity Hotspot, is well known for its richest biodiversity. More and more new insect species, including those with special evolutionary position, are being discovered in Gaoligong Mountains by native and foreign entomologists. “The discovery of this new twisted-wing species provides another evidence of insect biodiversity in Gaoligong Mountains”. Said Dr. LI Xueyan.

Twisted-wing insects (Strepsiptera) comprise an enigmatic group of insects with a complex life cycle that includes a long, obligate endoparasitic phase. Their male adults are free-living but their fore wings are halteres, while their female adults remain in their hosts and maintain most of their larval characteristics. They parasitize different kinds of other insects including silverfish, cockroaches, mantids, orthopterans, hemipterans, wasps, bees and flies.

Strepsiptera comprises about 630 species in the world. In China, only about 30 species were reported. Among different twisted-wing insects, the genus Xenos Rossius, 1793 parasitizes on eusocial wasps and contains 41 species in the worldwide. Five Xenos species were recorded in China and only one species was reported in Yunnan before this finding. 

This study, entitled “Xenos yangi sp. nov.: A new twisted-wing parasite species (Strepsiptera, Xenidae) from Gaoligong Mountains, Southwest of China”, was published in February 2nd in ZooKeys. Web link: . Dr. LI Xueyan is the co-corresponding author. This project was financially supported by grants from Yunnan Provincial Science and Technology Department (202105AC160039) and Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS “Light of West China” Program).


The new species Xenos yangi Dong, Liu & Li, 2022 (A, male adult B, female adult C, Xenos yangi (indicated by red arrows) parasitized on their host Vespa velutina D, living male adult (scale in A and B: 0.5 mm)


(Image by DONG Zhiwei)


(By LI Xueyan, Editor: YANG Yingrun)




LI Xueyan


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