Friday, 21 June 2013

Beetle Fly

Image: Charles Lam
Ah, biology... the most undisciplined discipline in science. Whenever you have a rule, there's always something to break it!

Beetle Flies are about 90 known species in the family Celyphidae.

Image: gbohne
Despite appearances, they really are true flies! Which means they belong to the order Diptera, like house flies, fruit flies, mosquitoes and, you know... flies!

Image: budak
The thing that sets them apart is that one piece of their thorax is greatly enlarged. In other words, they have an absolutely enormous scutellum.

Original image: Kristi
Actual beetles have a tiny scutellum but their first pair of wings are modified into hardened cases that protect the second pair, which are the ones they actually fly with.

Original image: Alistair Hobbs
Shield bugs have a big, triangular scutellum which extends over much of their abdomen.

Image: budak
But Beetle Flies blow them out of the water with their gigantic scutellum which almost completely covers and protects their wings. At least at rest. I guess they can lift it up when they want to fly around.

Image: Ian Jacobs
Beetle Flies are found in tropical parts of Africa and Asia, where they like to keep near to rivers, streams and wet, grassy areas. The larvae feed on dead stuff, but it seems like little else is known about them.

Image: budak
What I'd really like to know is how these little blighters manage in flight. Pulling up that giant piece of armour looks like a lot of work and I wonder how much space is left for the wings to move. Someone needs to tie one to a bit of string and film it in slow motion. I'll be waiting!

3 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

funky! they look like fingertips with fingernails! eek!

Esther said...

Sooo which came first; the beetle, or the fly?

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

@TexWusGirl: Yuck! That puts a whole new complexion on things!

@Esther: I looked that up! Flies come from the Triassic and some things that look a lot like beetles came before that. But there was a huge extinction before the Triassic that killed off loads of insects, so it's difficult.

Still it seems first there were beetles, then there flies, then there were Beetle Flies!

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