Insect species co-existing with the Papua New Guinea firefly Pteroptyx effulgens share aspects of appearance and behaviour

Nobuyoshi Ohba 1 & Victor Benno Meyer-Rochow 2

1 Yokosuka City Museum, Yokosuka 238-0016, Japan.
2 Jacobs University Bremen, Faculty of Engineering & Science, D-28759 Bremen, Germany and Department of Biology, University of Oulu, SF-90014 Oulu, Finland.


Male individuals of the firefly Pteroptyx effulgens start emitting flashes of light from particularly large trees after sunset. Individual flashing cycles with approximately 0.8 second flash intervals gradually synchronize as it gets darker, so that ultimately the entire tree appears to be sending out flashing signals. Daytime collections show that on trees used by P. effulgens for their luminescent displays a variety of insects live that resemble the firefly in morphology and colouration of the pronotum and wings. This article examines the kinds of mimicry that could account for the assemblage in one and the same location of similar insects, which number at least 20 species belonging to 11 families and four orders. The significance of this report lies in the fact that here we deal with a clearly defined space (i.e., the tree), occupied by a population of one dominant species (i.e., P. effulgens) allowing the evolution and co-existence of numerous similar-looking insects.

tags: Lampyridae, Lycidae, mimicry, predator avoidance, co-existence, Batesian, Müllerian, Mertensian, defence, toxic.