Getting lucky

Collecting flies while they are mating is a surefire way to establish conspecific identity. Many female phorids are extremely different in appearance than the males (search this site for lots of examples), and linking the two together can be almost impossible, based on morphology.
< Borgmeieriphora in copula

Borgmeieriphora in copula oblique

In this case, we have a pair of Borgmeieriphora collected in a Malaise trap by Wendy Porras in Costa Rica. The females are wingless, reduced creatures, which however have a sharpened, parasitoid type ovipositor. They lived in army ant colonies, but are rarely collected. The only large series of specimens known is a group that I caught over such ants at La Selva Biological Station many years ago. The males were flying over the ants, carrying the females, as many phorids do. Since then, males have shown up frequently in trap samples, but until now females almost never. This new capture was surely a huge stroke of luck, because most mating pairs separate before they die in the alcohol.

9 comments to Getting lucky

  1. At least in the Chironomidae, interspecific matings are quite common (Willassen 2005: http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2005f/zt01049p032.pdf). The only foolproof method of establishing reliable sex associations is DNA barcoding.

  2. jeff Bjorck says:

    You mean “the alcohol….of death,” don’t you? :o)

  3. Lucy Corrander says:

    Rather a sad ending. Hadn’t expected them to be dying in alcohol.

  4. Victor says:

    Perhaps we need a new method of instant death to prevent uncoupling couples copulate.

  5. Matt Van Dam says:

    Liquid nitrogen. I was told that this works quite well for looking at the endophalli of sepsids. Others have used types of spray cans to examine these structures on beetles see (Düngelhoef, S. & Schmitt, M. (2010) Genetica, 138, 45-57).

    • phoridae says:

      Yeah, I think that Bill Eberhard started doing this for studying internal courtship of females. I was talking about unsupervised collection by traps, in which males and females usually separate in alcohol, but often remain connected when killed by cyanide (a “dry” Malaise trap).

      I’d love to hear the latest about your giant flower-loving fly work. Maybe you could write something for flyobsession?

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