Pygatyphella obsoleta ( Olivier, 1911 )

Ballantyne, Lesley A. & Lambkin, Christine, 2009, Systematics of Indo-Pacific fireflies with a redefinition of Australasian Atyphella Olliff, Madagascan Photuroluciola Pic, and description of seven new genera from the Luciolinae (Coleoptera: Lampyridae), Zootaxa 1997, pp. 1-188 : 93-96

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Pygatyphella obsoleta ( Olivier, 1911 )


Pygatyphella obsoleta ( Olivier, 1911)

( Figs 257, 258, 377–396)

Atyphella obsoleta Olivier, 1911:174 . Ballantyne & Lambkin, 2000:15.

Atyphella obsoleta var. immaculata Olivier, 1911:174 .

Luciola (Luciola) obsoleta (Olivier) . McDermott, 1966:110. Haneda, 1966: Fig.3. Gressitt and Hornabrook, 1977: Fig. 15 (Nec plate 6f).

Luciola (Pygatyphella) obsoleta (Olivier) . Ballantyne, 1968:110; 1987b: 175–180, 183–185. Lloyd, 1972:155; 1973b:268; 1977:164; 1978:241; 1979:25; 1979b:6; 1981:95.

Holotype. Male. PAPUA NEW GUINEA: labelled 1. (printed) ♂; 2. (printed) Nieuw Guinea expedition; hand written Dignel; 3. pink label handwritten in ink ‘ obsoleta Ern Oliv. ’ ( MNHN).

Diagnosis. A small to moderate sized species (6–10 mm long) distinguished from other Pygatyphella by a series of features including the slight production of the middle of the posterior margin of the LO, the arched but not swollen posterior area of V7, the asymmetrical base of LL which is produced to the right, the apex of the MPP which in typical specimens is angulate and pointed, and the most prevalent dorsal colouration which has a wide triangular dark marking at the base of the elytra.

Male. Overview: Typical obsoleta ( Figs 377–379) have extensive dark markings on pronotum, median dark spots on both MN and MS, and extensive dark triangular marks at elytral base with two or three small spots towards elytral apex; lateral margins of pronotum variously rounded or angulate, sometimes differing from left to right side in one individual, kinks either absent, or developed on one or both sides, in both rounded or angulate lateral margins; head ( Figs 393, 394) can be retracted within prothoracic cavity thus often not visible from above; antennal sockets very close not contiguous; LO ( Figs 387 –389) retracted to anterior portion of V7 with median posterior margin slightly produced; area posterior to LO arched not swollen; posterolateral corners of V7 angulate; T8 ( Figs 390–392) with very long anterolateral prolongations expanding vertically; ventral surface of T8 ( Figs 391, 392) with well–defined and well margined median longitudinal groove, posterior margin of which may appear ridge like in pinned specimens if MPP abuts against it; inner left side of anterior margin of median groove often appearing slightly elevated with respect to right side (appears thus viewed from side in pinned specimens only); MPP usually angulate-pointed; LL ( Figs 395, 396) have rounded projection in their lateral preapical area, with inner apical area short; base of LL (dorsal aspect) asymmetrically produced to left.

Wide colour variations were noted ( Ballantyne, 1968), and Lloyd (1972) surmised on the probable existence of more than one species. Ballantyne (1993) addressed the variability of morphology in differing populations and this is extended below.

Group 1, typical obsoleta . Conforms to description above except for slight variations listed below.

Collectors for Wau 1961–1965 JS, JHS and MS variously.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Wau Morobe Pr. , 7.20S, 146.42E, 1.x.1961 – 15.xii.1961: male female (16–1700m), 3 males (1300m), 22 males 9 females (1200 m), female (1150m), 8 males, 3 females, (1050m), 1–4.x.1962, 3 males (1200m) GoogleMaps ; 25.i.1963, male (1090m); 21.iv.1963, male (1200m) ( BPBM) ; Hospital Creek , 10.v.1965, male (1250m)( BPBM) ; 1 mi N Wau 2800 feet, near Kunai Creek, Lae Road, 15.x.1969, J E Lloyd, 5 males, female (G260–263, G263 is tube of ethanol with 2 males 1 female ( JEL); Bulolo River 850–900m, male (4.ii.1966), female 24.viii.1965, ( BPBM).

Extensive colouration (as for Figs 377–379) on pronotum, basal area of elytron with wide triangular brown marking; pronotum angulate convergence both sides 7/41; rounded convergence 34/41; left margin only angulate 3/41, right margin only angulate 4/41; kink in lateral margin on both sides in 5/41; on left side only in 8/41, on right side only in 3/41; MPP pointed in 40/41 ( Figs 387, 388), rounded in 1/41.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Morobe Pr., 7.18S, 146.64E, Bulolo , 6.xi.1969 JS GoogleMaps , 1 male (700m); 18.v.1959, JS 1 male (700m); 21.viii.1956, E J Ford jnr, 1 female (1170m); Bulolo River , 8.v.1969, JS , 680m, 4 males 2 females, 2.ii.1969, JS male ( BPBM).

Colouration as above ( Fig. 377); pronotum angulate on one side only in 4/6; kink in lateral margin on both sides in 2/6, on left side only in 2/6, on right side only in 1/6, no kink either side in 1/6; MPP pointed.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Morobe Pr., 6.30S, 147.34E, Huon Peninsula, Pindiu , 3 males 20 –22.iv.1963 JS (one recorded at 750–850m) GoogleMaps ( BPBM).

Colouration as above ( Fig. 379); pronotum not angulate on either side; no lateral kinks in 2/3, kink on R side only in 1/3. MPP pointed.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Morobe Pr. , 6.43S, 146.59E, Lae: vii–viii.1944, F E Skinner, 7 males; 18–24.i.1962, JS 2 males (malaise trap); 10.xii.1964, M E Bacchus, 6 males (stn 116); 26.vii.1955, JLG, male ( BPBM) GoogleMaps ; Lae at Markham River Bridge, 14.x.1969, J E Lloyd 5 males 2 females (G233– 34 females, 238– 239 males, G240 3 males JEL) ; Botanic Gardens J B Buck, ‘7 PNG VI/1’ 7 males ( ANIC) .

Colouration ( Figs 258, 380). Pronotum with dark median markings in 5 males, markings reduced to faintly defined areas in remainder; elytron with apical spots small or faintly defined; dark markings restricted to a narrow band along basal 1/3 of suture in most males; 1 male has the extensive elytral colour of the group above, 2 males have dark marking extending from the dark suture to interstitial line 1 or 2; pronotum either angulate on both sides, right or left side only or not angulate on either side; MPP pointed.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Morobe Pr., 7.52S, 147.13E, Garaina : 13–18.i.1968, JS GoogleMaps 4 males 1 female (800m), 1 male (700–750m); 11–14.vii.1969 1 male 1 female JLG; 20.xi–17.xii.1969 W Hutton, 1 male; no date (900–1800m), 1 male 800m JS ( BPBM) .

Colouration ( Fig. 381). Pronotum with faint traces of median brown markings; elytra with reduced markings along suture as for Lae group above; left side of pronotum angulate in 2/9, right side angulate in 8/9, not converging posteriorly in 1/9; kink present on left side in 4 (with rounded convergence), kink present on right side in 3 (with rounded convergence). MPP pointed in 5/9, rounded, broadly in 2/9, narrowly rounded in 1/9.

Group 2. Madang –Sek Harbor group. Has extensive colouration of Group 1 Wau group; MPP very slightly medially emarginated and the median posterior margin of T8 is narrowly rounded.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Madang Pr., 6.07S, 147.57E GoogleMaps , Madang: 8.iv.1965 Y Haneda 6 males ( ANIC); 29–30.v.1968, J Buck, 26 males (in two tubes of ethanol) ( ANIC). Sek Harbor, 10 mi N . Madang, 1969, J.E. Lloyd, 3 males, 23.ix (G45–47); 5 males, 2–5.x (G115–118, 120 all Behavior Voucher specimens ( BHVS); G116 has abdomen missing); male, 4 females, 3.x (G157, 155, 156, 152, 151 BHVS); female, 5.x (G149 BHVS); male, 12.x (G230); male, 22.x (G384); male, 29.x (G105, BHVS); male, 30.x (G106, BHVS). ( JELC) .

Colouration extensive, pronotum with wide median marking, elytron with triangular brown basal area like Group 1; pronotal margins rounded in all pinned specimens, angulate on left side only in 5/26 tubed specimens; kink in L only, R only and both sides of 3 pinned specimens; in tubed specimens kink on both sides in 3/26, on right side only in 4/26, no kink on either side in remainder of tubed specimens. MPP always slightly emarginated in pinned specimens; slightly emarginated in 7/26 tubed specimens and not emarginated in 11 (Not all have abdomens).

Group 3, E Highlands group.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Eastern Highlands Pr., 6.30S, 145.90E, Aiyura, 5400 ft, J H Barrett, 32 males 4 females ( ANIC) GoogleMaps . 6.02S, 145.22E, 10.2 mi east Goroka , J E Lloyd, 2 males (G385, 387) ( JELC) GoogleMaps .

Colouration ( Fig. 383). With extensive dorsal dark markings as for Wau group, pronotal markings faint in 24/ 32 males while occupying the same area as those with dark marked pronotum; MS MN and markings at elytral base as for Wau group; pronotal lateral margins with angulate convergence on both sides in 5/32, angulate on L side only in 3/32, angulate on R side only in 6/32, remainder rounded; kink absent in 24/32, on R side only in 7/32, on L side only in 4/32 (kink coincides with rounded convergence on both sides in 2/32, kink on R side only coincides with angulate convergence in 3/32 and rounded in 3/32, and kink on L side only coincides with L side only angulate margin). V7 with posterolateral ‘corners’ rounded in 16/32, angulate in 6/ 32; length from posterior margin of LO to tip of MPP 2/3 total length of V7; posterior margin of MPP pointed (2/32), truncate (1/32), rounded in rest.

Remarks. Lloyd (1972:163) described the complex mating behaviour, which "suggests the possibility that L. obsoleta is actually a complex of cryptic species". These observations did not include a record of a synchronous display. He described the "sedentariness" of the males and the "intricate and expensive mating system" the significance of which "is that it reduces mating mistakes... since it maximizes opportunities for identification". None of Lloyd's (1972) observed mountings led to copulation; many coupled pairs (which apparently remained coupled throughout the next day) were subsequently found. Lloyd (1979a:330) gave details of 57 further "nuptial chases"; only 4 males mounted a female; none copulated. "My original interpretation of this elaborate pair-forming behavior was that a number of sympatric, sibling species, which morphological evidence suggests occur, make it necessary for reproductive isolation". Lloyd (1981:95) considered "in the seemingly variable emissions of males there is individuality that females remember and use to certify….. that the successful chaser is the one she has observed and evaluated".

Ballantyne (1993) investigated the potential variability in this species on a smaller number of specimens and localities than is done here, and suggested the same morphological groupings. Lloyd (pers. comm., 1989), after having seen Ballantyne’s (1993) results, was not sure that a strong distinction could be made between these morphological groups.

Because of the variability in the female morphology encountered here, females are tentatively assigned and no further description presented. Ballantyne (1968:111) did not encounter the same variability and characterised females.


Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle


Bishop Museum


Latvian Agricultural Academy


Australian National Insect Collection


Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro














Pygatyphella obsoleta ( Olivier, 1911 )

Ballantyne, Lesley A. & Lambkin, Christine 2009

Luciola (Pygatyphella) obsoleta (Olivier)

Ballantyne, L. A. 1987: 175
Lloyd, J. E. 1978: 241
Lloyd, J. E. 1977: 164
Lloyd, J. E. 1973: 268
Lloyd, J. E. 1972: 155
Ballantyne, L. A. 1968: 110

Luciola (Luciola) obsoleta (Olivier)

McDermott, F. A. 1966: 110

Atyphella obsoleta

Ballantyne, L. A. & Lambkin, C. 2000: 15
Olivier, E. 1911: 174

Atyphella obsoleta var. immaculata

Olivier, E. 1911: 174