Why so spiny?

Acontistoptera female
I got a lot of questions about why yesterday’s fly would be so spiny. I can think of two plausible answers, both of which might be right.

Firstly, such spiny flies are almost invariably found in species associated with ants, especially army ants. As evidence for this, here are 3 flies from the New World tropics found with Labidus army ants: Acontistoptera, in which the long setae (bristles) are found almost only on the wing rudiments, Adelopteromyia, which are spiny on the wing and on the body (especially the head), and Xanionotum, which has multiple rows transversely across the abdomen.
Adelopteromyia female
The large setae could be used to fend off attacking ants, like a porcupine, or for sensory purposes in the darkness of underground ant colonies. Or both. One thing to keep in mind is that the flies probably can move the setae, erecting them or laying them down. They are much more flexible, mobile, and speedy than you might think, as they literally runs circles around the host ants.
Xanionotum female

4 comments to Why so spiny?

  1. Your pictures are the subject of discussions here at the ento of the Australian Museum. 😉 Val

  2. John Flynn says:

    What do you use to glue your specimens to the pin?

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