Well camouflaged Pamexis hantam. Photo: R. W. Mansell

A Lion Hidden In the Lichens

Photo: M. W. Mansell

Researchers at the University of Pretoria (grant page) working to document South Africa’s Neuroptera, a group of insects that includes lacewings and antlions, recently published their discovery of a new species. The antlion, Pamexis hantam, is lichenophilous, which means it lives associated with lichens, and is one of only two such known species in the group. Both P. hantam and Pamexis namaqua are extremely well camouflaged against the lichens in their range, which probably helps hide them from predators, and presumably also made them difficult to discover. The new species is distinct from its close cousin in coloration, and is also found at higher altitudes, currently known from only one locality, Hantam Mountain in the Northern Cape province.

The full species description by authors Mervyn W. Mansell and Jonathan B. Ball recently appeared in the journal Zootaxa (link).