Section Diptera

Gauromydas heros

The beginnings of the ZSM Diptera collection date back to the early 19th century. In the years 1817-1820 Johann Baptist Ritter von Spix, the first director of the ZSM, made extensive zoological collections on an expedition to Brazil. Many of his often striking fly specimens are still preserved today. From Spix’s material, Joseph Anton Maximilian Perty (1804-1884) described 24 dipteran species new to science, among them Gauromydas heros (Perty, 1833), at 6 cm body length the largest fly species on earth (photograph at right).

Subsequently, however, it was to take almost another century until in 1911 Erich Otto Engel (1866-1944), the first true dipterist at the ZSM, began to set up a separate, actual Diptera collection. Around 1920 significant additions were made with the collections of Josef Kriechbaumer (Bavaria) and Michael Funk (Bavaria and Trieste). Friedrich Hermann bequeathed to the ZSM his large collection of Asilidae, including numerous type specimens from Argentina, Chile and South Africa, as well as extensive material of other orthorrhaphous Brachycera. In 1940 the collection of Johann Nepomuk Ertl was incorporated.

During World War II, parts of the the ZSM collections including the Diptera were evacuated to Neuegling castle. The only significant loss occurred during the subsequent period of Allied occupation, when in May 1945 a wooden cabinet with parts of the Nematocera collection, including type material, was burned for heating.

After the war the Diptera collection remained without curation for several years, until in 1951 Friedrich Kühlhorn (1912-1987; on duty until 1977) was employed who, however, initially had to take care of 14 other insect orders as well. In 1965 Wolfgang Schacht (1939-2011) became the ZSM’s first ever technical assistant especially for Diptera.

With the 1976 appointments of Ernst Josef Fittkau as director of ZSM and of Friedrich Reiss in the Diptera section, the latter received new impulses. At the same time a donation from the former Max-Planck-Institute of Limnology in Plön brought to the ZSM the most extensive and important Chironomidae collections and documents of August Thienemann, Friedrich Lenz, and E. J. Fittkau.

In the following decades the collection kept growing rapidly, particularly through material from doctoral and other academic theses supervised by E. J. Fittkau, numerous systematic collecting trips by W. Schacht (particularly in Central Europe, Turkey, southern France, and Spain), and from the ample exchanges between F. Reiss and other chironomid researchers. Additional important accessions came from various faunistic projects conducted in Bavaria, as well as from occasional collecting or donations by employees or friends of the ZSM, e.g. by Hans Mendl (Limoniidae), Eberhard Plassmann (Mycetophiloidea), and Max Kühbandner (Stratiomyiidae).

Since 2000 the ZSM Diptera section has been headed by Marion Kotrba. Wolfgang Schacht retired in 2004 after distinguished service for almost fourty years, but remained very active in our collections and dipterology in general until his too early death in 2011. His successor, Bärbel Stock, provided technical assistance on three days per week from 2005-2010. Fortunately, the section has been assigned a full technician again as of January 2011, and this position has been filled with an experienced dipterologist, Dieter Doczkal. Since June of 2011, the technical-curatorial responsibilities for the Diptera section collections (except those of Chironomidae) have been assigned to Dieter Doczkal, who performs the corresponding duties as he sees fit, under general supervision by Axel Hausmann, the head of the ZSM’s entomology department. The Chironomidae collections are curated by Martin Spies in consultation with Marion Kotrba. Several former students of E. J. Fittkau’s have kept active associations to the Section, first and foremost Martin Spies, who has been doing resident research and has helped maintain and improve the chironomid collections since 1995, currently in part-time employment.

Personnel timetable:

  • 1810-1826 J. B. v. Spix
  • c. 1886 A. Hiendlmayr
  • 1911-1944 E. O. Engel
  • 1951-1977 F. Kühlhorn
  • 1965-2004 W. Schacht
  • 1976-1999 F. Reiss
  • since 2000 M. Kotrba
  • 2005-2010 B. Stock
  • since 2010 M. Spies
  • since 2011 D. Doczkal

(partially drawn from: Reiss 1992)


Fittkau, E. J. & M. Spies 1999. Obituary notice. In memory of Friedrich Reiss (24 December 1937 – 17 August 1999). – Chironomus 12: 17-23.

Kotrba M 2011. Wolfgang Schacht (10. November 1939 – 10. April 2011). An obituary.- Studia dipterologica 17:3-11.

Reiss, F.1992: Die Sektion Diptera der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München. – Spixiana Suppl. 17: 72-82.

Reiss, F. & W. Schacht 1983: Die Typen der von J. B. v. Spix und C. F. Ph. v. Martius gesammelten und von M. Perty beschriebenen Dipterenarten (Insecta) in der Zoologischen Staatssammlung München. – Spixiana Suppl. 9: 307-312.