Sunday, 15 May 2016

Rat-tailed Maggot

Image: Biopix: N Sloth
Goodness me! Whatever next? Louse-headed mouse? Flea-legged parking inspector? Cockroach-winged PR guru?

If they keep on swapping body parts like this I dread to think what kind of Vermin King we might end up with.

Image: Biopix: JC Schou
Rat-tailed Maggots are an assortment of aquatic maggots who have what looks like a long, sometimes extremely long, rat's tail. Some of these maggots might be about 2 cm (0.8 in) long and have a tail that can reach 15 cm (6 in) in length when fully extended!

The tail is really more of a snorkel. It reaches right up to the water's surface so the maggot can breathe through it. That way they can spend all day underwater feasting on bacteria, other micro-organisms or assorted forms of rotting filth.

Since Rat-tailed Maggots breathe air, they have no use for gills, which in turn means they're not particularly reliant on water quality. Thus, there's many a Rat-tailed Maggot that lives in the squalor of cesspits, pools of sewage, watery manure or carcasses.

Video: drofnats1962

It sounds nasty, but... No, it IS nasty, but these are all places rich in bacteria and assorted forms of rotting filth. It's ideal for a young maggot on the make. They need only tolerate the atrocious conditions and in return they get lots of food, lots of space, little competition and few predators.

Other Rat-tailed Maggots have at least some standards, but they still live in stagnant, oxygen deprived environments like the pools of water in tree hollows or blocked gutters.

Video: Manksview

Also, if you're not careful, they have been known to find their way into living human beings. They survive the gastric juices just as they survive many other inhospitable habitats, and then they sort of eat whatever human flesh might be at hand.

It's not difficult to deal with them with a bit of medication and apparently it's all a big misunderstanding on the maggot's part. I guess sewage systems and digestive systems bare certain similarities. Still, I do hope they don't make a habit of it.

Eventually a Rat-tailed Maggot must turn away from their unclean ways and prepare to pupate. They emerge from their foul waters and crawl away to find a dry, secluded spot.

Image: UF/IFAS
Rat-tailed pupa
The maggot dries up and pupates. It keeps the rat-tail so it looks like a tiny mouse. You know how mice look kind of cute? Yeah, well this is a tiny mouse with all its cute-making properties surgically removed.

Eventually the pupa splits open and an adult comes out. And what is the adult, you ask?

Image: Gilles Gonthier
Sericomyia militaris
It's a hoverfly! Rat-tailed Maggots are the larvae of numerous hoverfly species, all found within the groups Eristalini and Sericomyiini. A lot of them are large, bee or wasp mimics...

Though there are some smaller ones like the species of the genus Chrysogaster.

Image: fir0002
Dronefly (Eristalis tenax)
The most commonly encountered adult is the Drone Fly. As you watch these honeybee lookalikes going about their day, feeding on nectar, pollinating flowers, taking their place in the world and giving back to society like some kind of... parking inspector (not a PR guru, though), you'd be hard-pressed to imagine their former life in some squalid gutter.

It's like Oscar Wilde almost said, "we're all crawling in sewage, but some of us are breathing through a rat-tail."


Esther said...

It's kind of adorable and skin-crawling creepy all at the same time.

Joseph Jameson-Gould said...

So true! I think tails and a lack of eyes can kind of go either way

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