Dr Daniel Martín-Vega

Fabulous fly rediscovered in Spain

September 18th, 2010

Entomologists across Europe are extremely excited by the rediscovery after 160 years of the ‘mythical’ Thyreophora cynophila at two sites near Madrid and in La Rioja. Thought to be the first fly driven to extinction by humans, it was considered one of Europe’s few endemic animals to have disappeared for good. According to Dr Daniel Martín-Vega in interview with the BBC, T. cynophila has acquired almost mythical status among the entomological community due to several reasons.

It lived on the carcasses of dead animals that are in the advanced stages of decay, whereas most carrion flies prefer less rotten flesh.

The fly was also said to have had an orange head that would glow in the dark, with some 19th Century scientists writing about how it could be found at night due to its luminous shine.

And 50 years after being described, the fly suddenly disappeared, supposedly for good, with the last sighting in 1849.

I found its possible ecological relationship with wolves fascinating:

Many aspects of its biology remained unknown, but the fly’s niche lifestyle was thought to have contributed to its extinction, as some experts speculated that it had a preference for crushed bones, in which it would lay eggs that turned into maggots.

Changes in livestock management in central Europe, improved carrion disposal following the Industrial Revolution, as well as the eradication of wolves and other big bone-crushing carnivores could have helped eliminate the fly.

‘Mythical’ extinct fly rediscovered after 160 years (BBC)