Academic journal article Science Scope

Of Flies and Ants: New Ant Decapitation Behavior of Dohrniphora Flies

Academic journal article Science Scope

Of Flies and Ants: New Ant Decapitation Behavior of Dohrniphora Flies

Article excerpt

While watching tiny flies in tropical forests in Brazil, Giar-Ann Kung puzzledly remarked to Brian Brown, 'They are cutting the ant heads off!" This unexpected find led to the discovery of a grisly type of behavior described in a new study.

In the world of small insects, there is an astonishing variety of bizarre behaviors, but one of the most extreme is that of the ant-decapitating flies of the family Phoridae. These tiny (1 to 3 mm long) flies inject their eggs into the bodies of ants, where, after hatching, the resulting larvae feed on the insides the host ant's head, eventually causing it to fall off. Such ant-decapitating flies have been known for more than 100 years, but recently, scientists have discovered a second, completely different type of ant decapitation in the Phoridae.

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This new discovery involves a group of flies in a genus called Dohrniphora, best known as "scavengers" because of one widespread, human-associated species that is common in cities around the world. Another group of species native to South and Central America, however, do something unusual. Adult female flies are attracted to injured trap-jaw ants, from which they industriously sever the gut, nerve cord, and other connections of the head from the rest of the body. …

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