Zelus championi Zhang & Hart

Zhang, Guanyang, Hart, Elwood R & Weirauch, Christiane, 2016, A taxonomic monograph of the assassin bug genus Zelus Fabricius (Hemiptera: Reduviidae): 71 species based on 10,000 specimens, Biodiversity Data Journal 4, pp. 8150-8150 : 8150

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Zelus championi Zhang & Hart

sp. n.

Zelus championi Zhang & Hart View in CoL   ZBK sp. n.


Type status: Holotype. Occurrence: catalogNumber: UCR_ENT 00048759 ; occurrenceRemarks: Verbatim label info: B.C.A.Rhyn.II. Zelusinconstans Ch. / Bugaba, 800-1,500 ft. Champion. / Holotype Zeluschampioni Hart / [genitalia vial]; recordedBy: G.C. Champion; sex: Adult Male; Taxon: scientificName: Zeluschampioni; family: Reduviidae; genus: Zelus; scientificNameAuthorship: Zhang & Hart, 2016; Location: country: PANAMA; stateProvince: Chiriqui; locality: Bugaba ; verbatimElevation: 457 m; decimalLatitude: 8.4833; decimalLongitude: -82.6167; georeferenceSources: Gazetteer; Identification: identifiedBy: G. Zhang; dateIdentified: 2013; Event: eventDate: No date provided; Record Level: institutionCode: BMNH GoogleMaps Type status: Paratype. Occurrence: catalogNumber: UCR_ENT 00004770 ; occurrenceRemarks: Drake Collection; recordedBy: Unknown; sex: Adult Male; Taxon: scientificName: Zeluschampioni; family: Reduviidae; genus: Zelus; scientificNameAuthorship: Zhang & Hart, 2016; Location: country: ECUADOR; stateProvince: Napo; locality: 10 km W Cosanga ; verbatimElevation: 2114 m; decimalLatitude: 0.59094; decimalLongitude: -77.88086; Identification: identifiedBy: G. Zhang; dateIdentified: 2013; Event: eventDate: 2005-03-10; Record Level: institutionCode: UCR GoogleMaps Type status: Paratype. Occurrence: catalogNumber: UCR_ENT 00014406 ; occurrenceRemarks: Additional information on label: L N 217200_570300; recordedBy: G. Fonseca; sex: Adult Male; otherCatalogNumbers: INBIO CRI002 040338; Taxon: scientificName: Zeluschampioni; family: Reduviidae; genus: Zelus; scientificNameAuthorship: Zhang & Hart, 2016; Location: country: Costa Rica; stateProvince: Cartago; locality: Monumento Nacional Guayabo, Turrialba ; verbatimElevation: 1100 m; decimalLatitude: 9.97159; decimalLongitude: -83.69072; georeferenceSources: Gazetteer; Identification: identifiedBy: G. Zhang; dateIdentified: 2013; Event: eventDate: 1903-01-04; Record Level: institutionCode: INBio GoogleMaps


Figs 54, 55, 56

Male: (Fig. 54) Medium-sized, total length 10.85-12.29 mm (mean 11.79 mm, Suppl. material 2); slender. COLORATION: Head, pronotum and hemelytron black; postocular lobe with light yellowish-brown mid-dorsal line; abdomen brightly red; pygophore black. VESTITURE: Densely setose. Dorsal surface of head with short, spine-like setae, pubescence of remainder of surface consisting of erect and recumbent setae. Pronotum with short, spine-like setae dorsally and laterally. Abdomen with scattered, erect setae of varying lengths. STRUCTURE: Head: Cylindrical, L/W = 2.00. Postocular lobe short; in dorsal view narrowing till abrupt posterior constriction, very short behind constriction. Eye smallish; lateral margin only slightly wider than postocular lobe; dorsal and ventral margins removed from surfaces of head. Labium: I: II: III=1: 1.4: 0.5. Basiflagellomere diameter larger than that of pedicel. Thorax: Anterolateral angle of collar rounded, without projection; medial longitudinal sulcus of anterior lobe shallow at collar, deepening posteriorly. Posterior pronotal lobe with rugulose surface; disc distinctly elevated above humeral angle; humeral angle rounded, without projection. Scutellum short; apex blunt, not projected. Legs: Moderately robust. Femoral diameters subequal. Hemelytron: Greatly surpassing apex of abdomen by about 3x length of abdominal segment seven; quadrate cell large and broad; Cu and M of cubital cell subparallel. GENITALIA: (Fig. 55) Pygophore: Ovoid; slightly expanded laterally near base of paramere in dorsal view; mid-lateral fold adjacent to paramere insertion. Medial process robust; tapering to apex; moderately long; laterally compressed towards apex; posteriorly directed; straight; apex in posterior view pointed, without modification or ornamentation. Paramere: Cylindrical; moderately long, nearly reaching apex of medial process; directed posteriad; narrower basally; slightly curved ventrad towards; apical portion not enlarged. Phallus: Dorsal phallothecal sclerite elongated; apical portion of phallothecal sclerite gradually tapering, slightly convex, laterally rounded, not forming angle; apex rounded, medially emarginate; angular processes arising near base, posterior margin of foramen deeply concave. Struts attached to dorsal phallothecal sclerite; apically separate, connected by bridge. Basal plate arm slender; separate; somewhat converging; in lateral view very slightly curved; bridge moderately long; extension of basal plate small, laterally not greatly expanded onto arm.

Female: Unknown.


The strongly contrasting black dorsal surface and red abdomen is distinctive of this species. The features of the genitalia are rather similar to those of other species in the Zelus vagans species group (Fig. 11), but the apex of the medial process is more strongly bent ventrad. Other diagnostic characters shared with members of the Zelus vagans species group and the Zelus longipes species group include the unarmed rounded humeral angle and the spine-like setae on pronotum.


This species epithet is a patronym, in honor of entomologist George C. Champion (1851-1927), who authored several volumes on Rhyncophora ( Heteroptera) in the Biologia Centrali Americana series.


Central and South America (Fig. 56). Countries with records: Costa Rica, Ecuador and Panama


No natural history or ecological knowledge is known, but we hypothesize that the strikingly contrasting black and red coloration is at the same time cryptic and aposematic, and may also be mimetic. Based on observations of other species, we know that low vegetation is a common habitat of members of this genus. In a dense forest, predators from above may confuse the black dorsum of Z. championi with dark forest background, while the strong contrast formed by black and red colors is highly visible to predators (e.g., lizards) at the same level or approaching from below. Like many assassin bugs, species of Zelus may inflict a painful bite when attacked. Besides, harpactorines, including Zelus spp., emit a foul odor when handled. We do not know if vertebrate predators are deterred by this odor, but it is strong enough to be detected by a human even meters away. Hence Z. championi may be well defended against predators and the contrasting coloration serves as a signal for unpalatability. Of course, many other species of Zelus are dull colored, but expected to have the same kind of physical or chemical defense. There may be other ecological factors that determine the coloration of Z. championi . We suspect that mimicry is one. Many other unpalatable insects show similar contrasting bright red and black color patterns. Zelus championi may participate in Müllerian mimicry with those species.

Taxon discussion

The type specimen of this species was originally described as the male of Z. inconstans , a species very similar in general form to Z. championi . On the basis of pubescence, pronotal armature and whitish exudation, Champion himself questioned the conspecificity of this male with the three females of the original type series. As more material was available for the present work, his doubts have been substantiated, the male of Z. inconstans identified and this particular specimen found to be a male of a new species. The two species belong to different species groups, as verified by pubescence and genitalic characters.