Terrible hairy fly rediscovered

According to the BBC news, scientists have rediscovered the bizarre Terrible Hairy Fly (Mormotomyia hirsuta), last seen in 1948 and thought to be extinct.  It has the most restricted of habitats, apparently living only in a 20-meter cleft in one rock in Kenya, and breeding on the guano of bats inhabiting the cleft.  It’s covered with large bristles and has vestigial wings (evidence for evolution, of course) and tiny eyes.

Mormotomyia hirsuta

This is on top of another “rediscovered” fly, Thyreophora cynophila, a bizarre orange-headed creature that breeds on decayed animal corpses.  It hadn’t been seen for over 150 years, but in September was reported from two localities in Spain.

Thyreophora cynophila

16 Comments

  1. Dominic
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Much more handsome than a kitteh! I would opine…

    • Dominic
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      …& according to the old joke, surely a ‘walk’ rather than a ‘fly’?!

  2. Bill
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    God made it like that and put it there…No, wait, it’s not macroevolution cos it’s still just a type of fly…No, wait…

  3. Posted December 9, 2010 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    One thing I’ve often wondered is how much, realistically, these rare species contribute to biodiversity. I’ve long suspected (but cannot prove) that these ultra-rare species receive an inordinate amount of effort for what they contribute. Probably for the same reason that billionaires like to eat endangered species – there’s an innate human fascination with the rare.

    • beechnut
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

      “Contribute”? There they are, just doing their thing, and someone comes along and moans about what they contribute to the completely irrelevant and utterly meaningless concept (for a “crawl”) of “biodiversity”! They’re just there, like everything else. Isn’t that enough? Of course we find them interesting, ‘cos we’re like that. And we find rareness interesting too: how do they manage to survive, being a minority and all? At least they get noticed by a perceptive species, before they finally become extinct… Something in the universe cares, for a while, at least.

      • Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

        I’m not averse to letting critters do their thing – in fact, I’m all for it. But the question as to how much rare species contribute to global biodiversity is a legitimate scientific question, with feet in speciation, population dynamics, and with implications for conservation biology. If the answer is “greatly,” then we should have different priorities as conservation scientists, than if the answer is “not much.” From a pure-science perspective, we can get a warped perspective on how things work if we’re focusing too much on the outliers. From an applied conservation stand-point, if these ultra-rare species contribute considerably to biodiversity, we should target our efforts towards them. Else, we should seek to maximize our protection efforts through other species (given conservation money and effort is sadly too-limited).

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think you need to worry about too much attention being lavished on this creature, given that it took 60 years for anybody to notice that it’s still there in that one cleft of rock in Kenya.

        • Dominic
          Posted December 10, 2010 at 7:45 am | Permalink

          I appreciate the idea that some species are ‘key’ in that their demise would affect a huge number of other species, however I would suggest that in a godless universe (this one) nothing is actually ‘for’ anything – things just are. There have probably been many species like this in recent decades that have vanished without ever being noticed – more’s the pity :(

  4. Draken
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Basically, this is a flyless fly that’s batshit crazy.

    The loss of its wings are of course a punishment from their god Flyweh for the original sin of eating sunflower nectar.

    • Paul g
      Posted December 9, 2010 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

      Made me laugh. Thanks :)

    • Dominic
      Posted December 10, 2010 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      “As I crawl around
      You know that we are all like flies”… The Cult

  5. McWaffle
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    It can’t even fly? That thing is terrible.

  6. Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    I wonder if it looks like a poisonous spider (without counting the legs) and is unappetising to the bats for that reason. Or, if it was flying, a bat would find it easier to catch as the bat sonar would be less effective on crawling prey?

    Anyway, it is fascinating, and nice to see a picture.

  7. J.J.E.
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    Anybody wanna go to Kenya to see if it has a hairy sister species nearby? (Heheh. I wrote “hairy sister”.) If such a new species exists, it could be named Mormotomyia coynei. Not quite sure how Jerry got associated with that hairless Atelopus frog. :-P

  8. Utakata
    Posted December 9, 2010 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr. Coyne…

    …as fascinating and terrifying those insects are, I wonder if it’s possible that you could do a piece on Cimex lectularius. The reasons…

    1) I think they are bizarre.
    2) They’re vampiric.
    3) My apartment building just had an outbreak of them. :(

    …thank you in advance!

    • Bill
      Posted December 10, 2010 at 7:53 am | Permalink

      Traumatic sex too!


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  1. […] week in wildlife” site has put up a new photo of the world’s rarest fly, the terrible hairy fly from Kenya.  Here the beast looks a bit like a spider mimic (predators might not be able to count […]

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