Life Science Environment Meet RuPaul: ‘Drag queen’ fly among newly named species

Meet RuPaul: ‘Drag queen’ fly among newly named species

rupal fly
Opaluma rupaul looks like "one of the outfits RuPaul would wear on the runway. Photo: CSIRO
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A newly identified Australian soldier fly species with metallic rainbow colouring and “legs for days” has been named after international drag queen icon RuPaul.

Opaluma rupaul is among 150 animals named by national science agency, the CSIRO, and its partners during the past year.

It is part of a new genus that derives its name from the Latin words for opal and thorn, reflecting the group’s gem-like colours and distinctive abdominal thorn.

An Opaluma rupaul specimen was collected more than 100 years ago but it wasn’t identified as a species until National Research Collections Australia entomologist Bryan Lessard saw it a few years ago.

“I was watching a lot of drag race while I was describing the species and to me it was a no-brainer,” Dr Lessard said.

“It looked exactly like one of the outfits RuPaul would wear on the runway. It’s a shiny, metallic rainbow kind of costume and it has legs for days.”

RuPaul has risen to stardom for producing and hosting American reality show RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Other species to be given creative titles include hard-to-find beetles, Binburrum articuno, Binburrum zapdos and Binburrum moltres, named after the bird Pokemon from the popular franchise.

A new plant-boring weevil is named Demyrsus digmon after a fictional insectoid in Japanese anime television series Digimon that drills and manipulates the earth.

Dr Lessard said the names were chosen to give the insects prominence and help ensure their longevity.

He said identifying new species was vital in protecting Australia’s biosecurity.

“This year we identified an exotic species of mosquito, Culex tritaeniorhynchus, that can transmit Japanese encephalitis virus and was detected in Australia for the first time,” Dr Lessard said.

“It was initially mistaken for an undescribed native species.”

Thirteen new soldier flies have been identified, with many living in areas affected by the Black Summer bushfires.

Two of those, Opaluma opulens and Antissella puprasina, are considered endangered and are known only to exist in Queensland’s Lamington National Park.

Opaluma rupaul, which is about a centimetre long and lives close to the forest floor, has only been found in Dalby and Toowoomba in south-east Queensland.

Dr Lessard said soldier flies play an important role in the ecosystem as their larvae recycle nutrients from dead plants and animals.

He said surveys were under way in bushfire-hit areas to determine how soldier fly populations had been affected.


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