The Lepidoptera collection of the Museum of Natural History in Vienna: One of the centres for recording biodiversity

The Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) are an insect order of enormous size. In fact it is the second largest insect order following the beetles with about 200.000 different species known to science. Major part of the group occurs in the tropics and here in the rain forests and cloud forests. The Owl moths (Noctuidae) with more than 20.000 species is one of the largest families in the animal kingdom. The biggest moth is a noctuid, Thysania agrippina (South America), with a wingspan of more than 30 cm. Some of the smallest insects with a size of a few millimetres are found under the leaf mining groups like the Nepticulidae.

A rain forest is a real blast furnace of nature: running with full power all the time, consuming and investing energy with all means and producing life in an incomparable intensity. To understand rain forests means to understand the three-dimensional structure of this network of trunks, branches, leaves and fungi. A puzzle of microclimates and microhabitats is responsible for a very complex kybernetic system. A system which is powerful and fragile at the same time. It is a climax association - nowhere in the world can be found as many different species of animals and plants as under the steaming roof of the jungle. The occurence of the mobile part of the insects is concentrated in the canopy. A big amount of species is not yet discovered. Indeed, we have no complete sketch of the living part of our planet. Even nowadays many spectacular findings are done in the scientific collections of the Museums. So discovered M. Lödl in the year 1994 the snout moth with the longest labial palps ever recorded. The species was found in old scientific material of the Africa Museum in Tervuren (Belgium) and is described meanwhile as Hypena extremipalpis LÖDL, 1994. The species is only known from the rain forests of the Congo basin in just four specimens. The labial palps - sensory organs for checking food - are of the incredible length of ¾ of the total length of the moth. Nothing is known about the life-history or flying behaviour till now.