New Species of Parasitic Spider Flies Discovered in Australia
Four new species of spider flies of the genus Panops have been discovered in Australia. The flies are described in a study published in ZooKeys: doi: 10.3897/zookeys.172.1889. Adult spider flies are considered important pollinators of flowers. It is the larvae that acts as a spider parasite. The larvae live as internal parasitoids of juvenile spiders.
The newly discovered flies have large round bodies covered with dense hairs and black or metallic green to blue coloration, giving a jewel-like appearance. The larvae of these flies specialize in parasitizing mygalomorph spiders such as the trap door and Sydney funnel web spiders. Panops austrae is pictured above and Panops jade is pictured below.
It’s a non rare scene when I shoot insects at morning, even more in autumm, flies, coleopters, bugs, some of them start the mating at hot afternoon end and one of them, always the male, die in the cold of the coming night, at evening there were females with the problem of separate the dead mate. This female was lucky, allowed me to take the photo and after released the male in a leaf nearby.
These are tiny, ugly, disease-carrying little blood-suckers that most people have never seen or heard of, but a new discovery in a one-of-a-kind fossil shows that “bat flies” have been doing their noxious business with bats for at least 20 million years.
For bats, that’s a long time to deal with a parasite doing its best vampire impression. Maybe it is nature’s revenge on the vampire bat, an aggressive blood consumer in its own right that will feed on anything from sheep to dogs and humans.
The find was made by researchers from Oregon State University in amber from the Dominican Republic that was formed 20-30 million years ago. The bat fly was entombed and perfectly preserved for all that time in what was then oozing tree sap and later became a semi-precious stone. This is the only fossil ever found of a bat fly, and scientists say it’s an extraordinary discovery. It was also carrying malaria, further evidence of the long time that malaria has been prevalent in the New World. The genus of bat fly discovered in this research is now extinct.
Photo: Bat fly in amber. This is the only known fossil of a bat fly, a specimen at least 20 million years old that carried malaria and fed on the blood of bats. (Credit: George Poinar, Jr., courtesy of Oregon State University)