Re-Discovery: Hairy Fly That Can't Fly [Softpedia 2010-12-11]
[Photo] Yellow-haired fly (Mormotomyia hirsuta). Male hairy flies (shown here) are larger than females and reach a length of about 0.4 in. (1 cm). Image credits: Robert Copeland
Over 60 years after its first discovery, the Mormotomyia hirsuta, or the 'terrible, hairy fly', has been found in a cave-like rock in Kenya.
This insect does not have fully-formed wings, so it is unable to fly, and its eyes are rather small and red, not what you would expect from a fly.
The very rare creature looks more like a fluffy spider than a fly, and scientists first spotted it in 1933 and then in 1948.
Robert Copeland of the International Center of Insect Physiology and Ecology, and Texas A&M University said that “since Mormotomyia cannot fly, there is a strong possibility that it is really restricted to this tiny habitat.
“If that is the case, it would be wonderful if the entire Ukazi Hill, on which it is found, were declared a national heritage area and given suitable conservation protection.”
The yellow-haired fly was re-discovered by Copeland and fellow dipterist (fly scientist) Ashley Kirk-Spriggs from South Africa's National, in Ukazi Hill, along the Thika-Garissa Road.
Just like in humans, the males of this fly species have more hair than the females do.
Copeland explained to LiveScience that “females have far fewer hairs and these tend to be comparatively short, while the larger males are pretty much covered with long hairs.”
The scientists don't have any idea why this fly is so hairy, but Copeland speculates that the hairs could be like some sort of Velcro that facilitates mating ... even though he admits himself that he doesn't “really see how”.
Another explanation is that the hairs are camouflage stingers, but Copeland has handled many live adults without getting stung.
Or, they could just be a warning for others to stay away, but in this case “why don't females have longer hairs?”
A lot of questions to be answered and Copeland plans to do so in his master's or doctoral thesis.