As one of the dipterists downstairs from the museum, I’ve been wanting for a while now to show off some of the more interesting flies. Maybe this will be the first of a series of posts about “My Favorite Flies” (feel free to join in, guys)?
Before I get too scientific, let’s start with a poem:
Ode to Strongylophthalmyia
Stranger beasts there are, it’s true,
Some rare and antiquated.
But I prefer the understated
One fifth an inch from tip to rear,
Much shorter than its name,
So obscure, no praise or fame
Awkward, gangly legs persue
A most distinctive head;
The thorax stretched, two long wings spread -
You must admit it’s rather queer,
This creature from the wood,
The rarely seen, misunderstood
I first became acquainted with this family in northeastern Washington State about 7 years ago when I caught a pair of very strange, skinny flies in my net, which turned out to be Strongylophthalmyia angustipennis. They’ve been sitting in our freezer these past years until I took pictures again recently (below).
This post started a couple weeks ago when I was looking through some malaise trap residues from the Thailand TIGER insect survey, and found three different species of the unusual genus Strongylophthalmyia, one of which had really strange antennae (below). It turns out that several southeast Asian species have projections on the third antennal segment, but this one seems to take the cake!
Strongylophthalmyiidae is the longest family name in Diptera, but the flies themselves are pretty obscure – probably few entomologists have collected them. There are now two genera, but 21 of the 22 described species belong in the original genus, Strongylophthalmyia. These flies are generally found on fallen logs, especially of aspen (Populus tremuloides). The center of diversity appears to be in southeast Asia, where there are undoubtedly undescribed species remaining. Strongylophthalmyiids are closely related to the equally obscure family Tanypezidae, and may even belong inside this family, according to my friend Owen Lonsdale at the Canadian National Collection of Insects.
If you’d like to read more (and I know you do), here’s some references on Strongylophthalmyia:
Barber, K. N. , Strongylophthalmyia pengellyi n. sp., a second species of Nearctic Strongylophthalmyiidae (Diptera), JESO Volume 137, 2006. pp 81–109. (online)
Manual of Nearctic Diptera, chapter 59. (online)
Papp, L., Merz, B., & Földvári, M. 2006. Diptera of Thailand. A summary of the families and genera with references to the species representations. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 52(2) [pp. 165-172] (online)
Diptera.info forum with photos here.