328 Accepted by B.-K. Byun: 22 Nov. 2022; published: 6 Jan. 2023
ISSN 1175-5326 (print edition)
ISSN 1175-5334 (online edition)
Zootaxa 5227 (3): 328–340
Copyright © 2023 Magnolia Press
Collecting in the Northern Andean Páramo revealed purple iridescent pygmy
moths of the little known Andean endemic Brachinepticula (Nepticulidae)
JONAS R. STONIS1*, ANDRIUS REMEIKIS1,3, VIKTORIJA DOBRYNINA1,4 & WOLFRAM MEY2,5
1State Research Institute Nature Research Centre, Akademijos g. 2, 08412 Vilnius, Lithuania
2Museum für Naturkunde, Invalidenstr. 43, 10115 Berlin, Germany
email@example.com; https://orcid.org/ 0000-0002-5647-1472
This paper describes two new species of Brachinepticula Stonis & Diškus: B. melania Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov.
and B. colombica Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov. Both the new species were collected in the Northern Andean Páramo
(Cundinamarca, Colombia). Since the specimens were caught at night-time with a light trap, the host plants remain
unknown. The examination of the morphology of the male genitalia of B. melania and female genitalia of B. colombica
revealed a highly distinctive new taxa of pygmy moths and broadened our knowledge of the morphology and distribution
of the recently described endemic genus Brachinepticula Diškus & Stonis. The examination of the new findings also
allowed us updating the diagnosis of Brachinepticula. The new species were illustrated with photographs of the genitalia,
adults, and habitats.
Key words: Colombia, leaf miners, new species, pygmy moths, the Andes
The inventorying of the Earth’s species and mapping of their distribution in the biosphere is important (Vane-Wright
1992, 1996; Wheeler et al. 2012a, 2012b); the exploration of the biosphere is much like exploring the Universe
(Wheeler et al. 2012b).
The Neotropical páramo, a high-altitude ecosystem at an elevation of about 2,800–4,700 m, is a species- rich
biome of the relatively recent Miocene origin and is characterized by high species endemism and fast speciation
rate (Madriñán et al. 2013). By comparing diversification rates of lineages in fast evolving biomes and by using
numerous molecular phylogenies, it has been found that average diversification rates of páramo lineages are faster
than those of other reportedly fast evolving biodiversity hotspots (Madriñán et al. 2013). In the páramo, organisms
that populate this ecosystem are a likely product of specific adaptations to an extreme environment that evolved during
the Pleistocene or the last three to five million years (Madriñán et al. 2013, Stonis et al. 2016). Thus, according to
Madriñán et al. (2013), the páramo represents an ideal model ecosystem for investigating diversification processes.
It should also be mentioned that the understanding of processes that cause speciation is among major tasks of
evolutionary biology. Unfortunately, the arthropoid fauna of this highly interesting and important ecosystem, the
páramo, is still largely unknown.
The summarized data on the discovered Colombian pygmy moths (but not nothing from the Colombian páramo)
were published by Stonis et al. (2019) and, subsequently, incorporated into the most recent monograph on the
Neotropical Nepticulidae by Stonis et al. (2022).
Brachinepticula Diškus & Stonis, 2018 is a small and still poorly investigated genus of pygmy moths
(Nepticulidae) (for the updated generic composition of the Neotropical fauna of pygmy moths see Stonis et al. 2022
and some general information on the family Nepticulidae can be found in Scoble 1983; Johansson et al. 1989).
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Until now, the genus Brachinepticula was known only from two publications, the primary description of the
genus (Stonis et al. 2018) and the pictorial monograph of the Neotropical Nepticulidae (Stonis et al. 2022), and was
comprised of two species known from Ecuador and Argentina.
Our current examination of the material collected by Wolfram Mey in the Northern Andean Páramo in
Cundinamarca, Colombia (Figs 1–5) resulted in the discovery of two more Brachinepticula species: B. melania
Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov. and B. colombica Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov. These new species are
characterized by a distinctive and rather outstanding morphology of the male and female genitalia, and the data on
these species morphology and distribution significantly broaden our knowledge of Brachinepticula in general. The
necessity to update the diagnosis of the genus, along with the difficulty of re-collecting additional specimens in the
near future, were the major reasons why the new taxa were described from singletons.
In the current paper, we document and name these two new species and compare their male and female genitalia
characters with the morphology of all other known members of the recently erected genus Brachinepticula.
Material and methods
The descriptions of the new species are based on the material currently deposited in the collection of Museum
für Naturkunde (MfN), Berlin, Germany, and collected by Wolfram Mey in November 2016 and January 2017
in Colombia. Later, the material (holotypes) will be transferred to Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad
Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá (ICN).
Adults were caught at night-time by using a battery (12 V) operated light tower from the F. Weber company,
Stuttgart, Germany, equipped with two 15 W super actinic light tubes.
The preparation of the genitalia mounts was done following Stonis et al. (2022). Abdomens were macerated
in 10% KOH, and genital capsules, as well as the phallus, were mounted in Euparal ventral side uppermost. The
genitalia mounts on microscope slides were examined and photographed with a Leica DM2500 microscope and
a Leica DFC420 digital camera. Adults were studied and measured with a Lomo10 stereoscopic microscope and
photographed with a Leica S6D stereoscopic microscope with an attached Leica DFC290 digital camera.
Description of the new species
Brachinepticula melania Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov.
(Figs 1–3, 6–22, 48)
Type material. Holotype: ♂, COLOMBIA, Cundinamarca, Parque Ecológico Matarredonda, Páramo de Cruz Verde,
04°32.937'N, 074°00.0022'W, 3300–3486 m; 11.xi.2016, Wolfram Mey, genitalia slide no. RA1100 (MfN / ICN).
Diagnosis. Externally, it is a very distinctive unique species characterized by the short frontal tuft, the large
distally dark scape, and fuscous brown and purple iridescent scaling of the thorax and forewing. In the male genitalia,
the new species is easily recognizable by the combination of a unique lobate valva, large plate of the gnathos, long
and distally widely rounded vinculum, two unique dorsal processes of the valva and the large horn-like sclerite of
Male (Figs 6–12). Forewing length about 3.4 mm; wingspan about 7.7 mm. Head: palpi and frons blackish
brown; frontal tuft short, ochre-orange; collar short, weakly paired, comprised of slender lamellar scales, brown;
scape large, golden cream proximally, dark brown to black brown, golden glossy, with some purple iridescence
distally; antenna significantly longer than one half the length of forewing; flagellum with some purple iridescence,
black-brown on upper side, brown on underside except for six distal segments which are snow-white; total number
of segments 59. Thorax and tegula dark grey with strong purple iridescence. Forewing uniform, without fascia,
blackish brown with some golden gloss and strong purple iridescence; fringe dark brown; underside of forewing
blackish brown, golden glossy, without spots or androconia. Hindwing and its fringe brown with some golden
gloss and purple iridescence on upper side and underside. Legs dark brown on upper side and underside, with some
golden gloss and purple iridescence. Abdomen blackish brown, golden glossy, with some purple iridescence; genital
plates wide, dark brown; anal tufts relatively short, lateral, comprised of dark brown piliform scales.
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FIGURES 1–5. Collecting locality in Colombian páramo. 1–4, Brachinepticula melania sp. nov., habitat, Cundinamarca,
Parque Ecológico Matarredonda, Páramo de Cruz Verde, 3300 m; 5—B. colombica sp. nov., habitat, Cundinamarca, Fómeque,
Finca La Laja (near Parque Ecológico Matarredonda, Páramo de Cruz Verde), 3200 m
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Male genitalia (Figs 13–22). Capsule significantly longer (715 μm) than wide (395 μm). Pseuduncus short,
band-like, with extended lateral lobes. Uncus wide, distinctly truncated distally. Gnathos with one large caudal
process and large central plate. Valva 435–440 μm long, with a long slender apical process and two lobes: subapical
and basal; transtilla absent; basal processes of valva very long, distally widened. There are two long dorsal processes
on each valva forming a pseudoanellus (or juxta). Vinculum long, distally widely rounded, without lateral lobes.
Phallus (Figs 15–18) 430 μm long, 140 μm wide medially, 130 μm basally, without cornuti on vesica; cathrema with
one large, slightly curved horn-like sclerite.
FIGURES 6–12. Male adult of Brachinepticula melania Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov., holotype, Colombia, Cundinamarca,
Parque Ecológico Matarredonda, Páramo de Cruz Verde, 3300 m (MfN / ICN)
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FIGURES 13–18. Male genitalia of Brachinepticula melania Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov., holotype, genitalia slide no.
RA1100 (MfN / ICN). 13, 14, capsule with phallus removed; 15–18, phallus
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FIGURES 19–22. Male genitalia of Brachinepticula melania Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov., holotype, genitalia slide no.
RA1100 (MfN / ICN). 19, 21, dorsal view; 20, 22, lateral view
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334 · Zootaxa 5227 (3) © 2023 Magnolia Press
Bionomics. Adults fly in November. Otherwise, biology is unknown.
Distribution (Figs 1–3, 48). This species occurs in Colombia in Northern Andean Páramo (Cundinamarca), at
an elevation about 3,300–3,490 m.
Etymology. The species name derived from the Greek μελαινα (melaina) meaning black, dark or dark-skinned
with reference to the dark colour of the new species (not after Mrs Melania Trump, USA).
Brachinepticula colombica Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov.
(Figs 4, 5, 23–29, 48)
FIGURES 23–29. Brachinepticula colombica Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov., holotype (MfN / ICN). 23–25, adult female;
26–29, female genitalia, slide no. RA1101
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FIGURES 30–39. The genus Brachinepticula Diškus & Stonis, major diagnostic characters of the male genitalia (after Stonis
et al. 2018). 30, 32–37, B. plurilobata Diškus & Stonis; 31, 38, 39, B. elongata Remeikis & Stonis
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FIGURES 40–47. The genus Brachinepticula Diškus & Stonis, major diagnostic characters (after Stonis et al. 2018). 40, 42–47,
B. plurilobata Diškus & Stonis; 41, B. elongata Remeikis & Stonis
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Type material. Holotype: ♀, COLOMBIA, Cundinamarca, Fómeque, Finca La Laja (near Parque Ecológico
Matarredonda, Páramo de Cruz Verde), 04°34.181’N, 073°49.577’W, 29–31.i.2017, Wolfram Mey, genitalia slide
no. RA1101 (MfN / ICN).
Diagnosis. In the female genitalia, the shape of the modified anterior processes and presence of vaginal sclerites
indicate the belonging of this species to Brachinepticula. From the congeneric species, B. colombica sp. nov. differs
by a distinctive golden shiny fascia on a grey-brown forewing with purple iridescence. The unusual shape of vaginal
sclerites in the female genitalia might also be highly diagnostic.
Female (Figs 23–25). Forewing length about 3.1 mm; wingspan about 6.8 mm. Head: palpi and frons grey-
brown to blackish brown; frontal ochreous orange; collar distinctive, comprised of rather slender lamellar scales,
greyish brown, golden glossy; scape large, golden shiny; antenna slightly longer than half of the length of forewing;
flagellum grey-brown, distal 1/5 (8–9 segments) cream. Thorax, tegula and forewing greyish brown, golden glossy,
with purple iridescence. Fascia of forewing slightly postmedian, golden shiny; fringe greyish brown; underside
of forewing greyish brown, slightly golden glossy, with strong purple iridescence, without spots or androconia.
Hindwing relatively wide, grey-brown on upper side and underside, without spots or androconia; its fringe greyish
brown. Legs greyish brown. Abdomen grey-brown, golden glossy, with purple iridescence; anal tufts absent (or
FIGURES 48, 49. Geographical distribution of the genus Brachinepticula Diškus & Stonis. 48, distribution map of all currently
known species; 49, South American transition zone of the Neotropical Region (after Stonis et al. 2016 and Morrone 2014, 2015,
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Female genitalia (Figs 26–29). Total length about 575 μm. Anterior apophyses lobe-like, significantly shorter
than posterior apophyses. Genitalia with two short but rather complex vaginal sclerites (Figs 26, 27). Corpus
bursae small, oval-shaped; signum or pectinations absent. Accessory sac distinctly rounded, weakly folded; ductus
spermathecae chitinized in proximal part, with about 2.5 coils. Abdominal tip very wide, rounded.
Bionomics. Adults fly in January. Otherwise, biology is unknown.
Distribution (Figs 4, 5, 48). This species occurs in Colombia in Northern Andean Páramo (Cundinamarca), at
an elevation about 3,200 m.
Etymology. This species is named after the country, Colombia.
The discovery providing novel data. The discovery of Brachinepticula melania Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov.
and B. colombica Remeikis, Mey & Stonis, sp. nov., two distinctive and morphologically interesting new species,
is important because it provides novel morphological, chorological, and diversity data about the rare and endemic
Andean genus Brachinepticula Diškus & Stonis. The first diagnosis of Brachinepticula (Figs 30–47) was based on
two species: B. plurilobata Diškus & Stonis, a type species of the genus from Ecuador, and B. elongata Remeikis &
Stonis from Argentina (Stonis et al. 2018). According to this primary diagnosis, Brachinepticula was characterized
by the presence of well-developed processes forming a pseudoanellus and long lateral process(es) of the cathrema,
as well as a lobate valva in the male genitalia, and vaginal sclerites in the female genitalia. The forewing venation
of Brachinepticula was described as possessing a separate vein CuA (Stonis et al. 2018). As far as it was known,
blotch-like leaf mines also made this genus distinctive (Fig. 47); however, this feature was (and still is) recorded
from a single species, B. plurilobata; leaf mines and other details of the biology of the remaining species have not
Both the newly discovered species possess purple to strong purple iridescence of the scaling (Figs 6–10, 23,
25) and white or cream-tipped antenna (Figs 7, 24). B. colombica possesses a distinctive fascia of the forewing,
while B. melania is uniform, without fascia. Nevertheless, we were very curious if the male of B. melania and
female of B. colombica could belong to a single species, i.e., could they represent a case of distinctive sexual
dimorphism. However, the external comparison of the habitus showed that these specimens are two separate species.
Unfortunately, our attempt to analyse the specimens molecularly from broken dry hindlegs failed: it was impossible
to amplify DNA; therefore, no sequences were received.
The newly discovered B. melania possesses very distinctive male genitalia with a wide rounded vinculum, a
robust gnathos, an elaborated valva with two lobes and a long apical process. However, the dorsal processes of the
valva (Figs 19, 21) make B. melania especially unique; they do not resemble those of B. plurilobata and B. elongata
but only at first look. When studied from the lateral view (Figs 20, 22), the dorsal lobes of B. melania were found
to be probably functioning as the so-called pseudoanellus or juxta. Moreover, in the lateral view, there is a wide gap
between the first dorsal and the second processes; the latter is attached to the basal process of the valva (Fig. 22).
Transtilla is absent in B. melania, like it is lacking in all other Brachinepticula species. However, it was found that
there were stronger extended lateral corners of pseudouncus in B. melania (Fig. 13). This character might also be
a distinctive feature of the genus. The larger, horn-like structure in the phallus of the newly discovered B. melania
does not represent a loose cornutus on vesica but is a lateral extension of the cathrema (Fig. 17).
In the female of B. colombica, the vaginal sclerites are distinctive but, unlike the sclerites of the type species B.
plurilobata, are modified and comprised of two elements: a shorter lobe-like part and a sinuous slender part (Figs
26, 27). In addition, the accessory sac of B. colombica is rounded, like it is characteristic for another Brachinepticula
species, B. plurilobata, but, unlike the accessory sac of the type species, only little folded (compare Figs 29 and
Such additional information allows us updating the diagnosis of Brachinepticula.
Updated diagnosis of the genus Brachinepticula: major diagnostic characters. External characters: frontal
tuft very short (Fig. 8) to relatively long (Fig. 40); scape very large (Figs 8, 23) to medium large (Fig. 40); antenna
white to cream distally (Figs 7, 24) or dark; forewing with fascia(e) (Figs 23, 25, 41) or uniform (Figs 6, 40); purple
iridescence light (Figs 23, 25, 40) to intense (Figs 6, 10) or absent (Fig. 41).
Male genitalia: pseuduncus band-shaped with caudally extended corners (Figs 19, 30, 31); uncus large, with one
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widely rounded (Figs 30, 31) or a trapezoid lobe (Fig. 9); valva with various lobes (Figs 14, 30, 31); dorsal processes
of valva forming a pseudoanellus (or juxta) (Figs 21, 22, 30–33); vinculum large, distally rounded (Figs13, 14, 30);
phallus without cornuti, with basal opening (Figs 16, 34–38); cathrema with large, extended horn-like sclerite(s)
(Figs 15–18, 34–39).
Female genitalia: abdominal tip (ovipositor) widely rounded (Figs 29, 42, 45); anterior apophyses modified,
short, partially lobe-like (Figs 29, 42); posterior apophyses long, rod-like (Figs 29, 42); vaginal sclerites present
(Figs 26, 27, 42–44); accessory sac rounded (Figs 29, 45, 46), weakly (Fig. 29) or strongly folded (Figs 45, 46);
corpus bursae relatively small, without pectinations (Figs 29, 45).
Biology (based solely on the type species): larvae feeding on Polygonaceae host plant; leaf mines blotch-like
Differential diagnosis of the genus (after Stonis et al. 2018; updated). From Johanssoniella Koçak, 1981
(=Johanssonia Borkowski, 1972), the genus Brachinepticula differs by a unique cathrema with well-developed
process(es) laterally (cathrema indistinctive or stick-shaped in Johanssoniella), the presence of strongly
developed dorsal processes forming a pseudoanellus and a widely rounded or trapezoid uncus (usually triangular
in Johanssoniella), a complex lobate valva (usually simple, triangular in Johanssoniella), and the presence of
distinctive vaginal sclerites in the female genitalia (absent in Johanssoniella).
From Enteucha Meyrick, 1915, Brachinepticula differs by a cathrema with well-developed process(es) laterally,
the presence of a distinct large uncus (reduced or partially reduced in Enteucha), a gnathos with a stout caudal
process (gnathos usually transverse in Enteucha), the presence of strongly developed dorsal processes forming a
pseudoanellus or juxta (absent in Enteucha), less reduced forewing venation, and the presence of distinctive vaginal
sclerites in the female genitalia (absent in Enteucha).
From Manoneura Davis, 1979 (=Oligoneura Davis, 1978), Brachinepticula differs by a widely rounded or
trapezoid uncus, a gnathos with a stout caudal process (in Manoneura, the unique uncus and gnathos form a lock-
shaped structure), the absence of a thickened apodeme of the vinculum (present in Manoneura), the phallus without
carinae (with a distinct carinae in Manoneura), a cathrema with long process(es) (without lateral process, half-
tubular in Manoneura), the presence of unique vaginal sclerites in the female genitalia (absent in Manoneura), and
less reduced forewing venation with a separate CuA (Stonis et al. 2018).
Distribution and biology of Brachinepticula. The discovery of Brachinepticula in the páramo of Colombia
was rather unexpected because it was believed that Brachinepticula occurs in lower altitudes and predominantly
tropical habitats. Now it would not be surprising if more species of Brachinepticula were discovered, especially if
the search were done in higher altitudes.
Despite the fact that, currently, the genus is known from a few geographically separated areas (Fig. 48), all of
them belong to the South American transition zone (Fig. 49). It can be expected that the genus might have an almost
continuous distribution along the Andes.
Unfortunately, the host plants of the majority of Brachinepticula species are unknown, but the type species, B.
plurilobata, is trophically associated with Muehlenbeckia with distinctive blotch-like leaf mines (Stonis et al. 2018).
Therefore, it can be assumed that other Brachinepticula species also feed on Polygonaceae. It should be mentioned
that some Polygonaceae have been reported from the páramo of Cundinamarca: Muehlenbeckia tamnifolia (Kunth)
Meisn., M. volcanica (Benth) Endl., Rumex acetosella L., and R. tolimensis Wedd. (Vargas-Ríos & Pedraza 2003).
We are grateful to the Colombian partners Dr Rodulfo Ospina-Torres and his wife Patricia from Universidad
Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. The funding of the collecting for this study was provided by Bundesministerium
für Forschung und Bildung, Germany (01DN16010) and Vicerectoria de Investigacion de la Universidad Nacional
de Colombia, Bogotá (Proyectos de Importancia Institucional, Código Hermes 33103). We also thank Empresa de
Acueducto y Alcantarillado de Bogotá (EAAB) for the authorization of the access to the research area. The export
permission was granted to the fourth author by Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales (ANLA) (No. 00983
STONIS ET AL.
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