Bootylicious Beyonce Horsefly Discovered

Photo courtesy of Bryan Lessard

A species of previously undescribed horsefly, held in fly collection since 1981, has been named after the singer Beyonce (Scaptia (Plinthina) beyonceae)). Mr Bryan Lessard, a researcher at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, chose to name the fly after Beyonce due to it’s dazzling golden behind.

Some people may have experienced the painful bite of a female horsefly whilst on a countryside walk. However, it is unknown whether this species feeds on nectar, pollen or if it is a bloodsucker. This is because a specimen of this particular horsefly has not been found in the wild despite attempts made by Mr Lessard in 2010. Encouragingly, Mr Lessard did obtain anecdotal evidence from locals of northeast Queensland’s Atherton Tablelands who had been bitten from a ‘gold bum fly.’

These statements suggest the Beyonce horsefly may rely on blood as a primary food source, but until more specimens are found or the flies are observed in the wild, this is speculation.

The discovery of a new horsefly species is significant to humans (despite their tendency to give us a nasty nip) as they are fundamental pollinators of plants, ensuring the survival of necessary food chains and for the aesthetic pleasures of diverse and plentiful flora.

Mr Lessard’s choice of name will encourage others who may be fans of Beyonce, to take an interest in something they might normally ignore. This is surely a good thing for conservation and perhaps we will see additional new species named after celebrities in the future? Maybe a Rickey Gervais beetle being chased by hoard of angry Madonna birds after presenting itself cheekily, one too many times?

Haley Dolton

Lets get it on…

 

 

For females, sex can be a dangerous activity in many species (and I’m not talking about social dramas experienced with humans!) For example, in some invertebrates the male will pierce the female’s abdomen and inject sperm through the wound at the female’s own detriment (in process termed hypodermic insemination) or the danger posed by a serious love bite from an over amorous shark!

Research led by Professor Matthew Gage has shown that despite the dangers of mating in some species, the promiscuity of females will increase during certain conditions, triggering them to mate with several males. Professor Gage’s team focused on the mating of the driving flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum).

Reducing the number of individuals within a controlled population artificially created an inbred population. As numbers decreased, the potential mating partners started to dwindle. In a bid to avoid fertilisation with any close relatives, female T. castaneum actively bred with as many males as possible to ensure the genetic viability of her offspring.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most promiscuous females produced the largest number of offspring and consequently, aided the survival of their own genes. Professor Gage proposed the females stored a pool of sperm from each individual male to screen for the least genetically similar breeding partner.

This is an incredible evolutionary solution to environmental pressures and helps to explain why females of some species are extremely promiscuous despite the costs to their own health.

By Haley Dolton