Phylogeny And Classification

Traditionally the Diptera have been divided into two or three suborders: Nematocera ("lower" Diptera) and Brachycera ("higher" Diptera), with the latter sometimes divided further into the Orthorrhapha and Cyclorrhapha. Although there is general agreement that the Diptera, Brachycera, Cyclorrhapha, and a few other subordinate groups are monophyletic, there is comparably general agreement that the Nematocera is a paraphyletic or grade-level grouping. No synapomorphies (shared, derived characters) unite the Nematocera, and the Brachycera are thought to have originated from some subgroup within the Nematocera. Despite this, it is useful to mention some of the primitive features shared by most nema-tocerans. The name itself ("Nematocera") refers to the fact that adults of these flies typically have long, multisegmented antennae. Furthermore, adult nematocerans generally are slender, delicate, long-legged flies (e.g., Tipulidae and Culicidae); however, the group also includes some rather stout-bodied flies (e.g., Simuliidae and Ceratopogonidae). Larval nematocerans typically have a well-developed, sclerotized head capsule, and their mandibles usually rotate at a horizontal or oblique angle. Brachycera are characterized by the short, three-segmented antennae, the last segment of which is usually either stylate or aristate. Brachyceran larvae usually have a hemicephalic or acephalic head capsule, consisting mostly of slender, sclerotized rods that are partly or largely retracted into the thorax. Within the Brachycera, there are additional differences between orthorrhaphous and cyclorrhaphous groups. The former group, which includes Rhagionidae, Tabanidae, Stratiomyiidae, and a few other families, is similar to nematocerous Diptera in that it is considered a paraphyletic group. Finally, within the Cyclorrhapha are two major subgroups, the presumed paraphyletic Aschiza (includes Phoridae and Syrphidae) and the monophyletic Schizophora (includes the majority of Brachycera, such as Tephritidae, Drosophilidae, Ephydridae, Agromyzidae, Muscidae, and Tachinidae).

ECOLOGY Life History

As a holometabolous insect, or one that undergoes complete metamorphosis, the dipteran life cycle includes a series of distinct stages or instars. A typical life cycle consists of a brief egg stage (usually a few days or weeks, but sometimes much longer), three or four instars (typically three in Brachycera, four in nematocerous flies, and more in simuliids, tabanids, and a few others), a pupal stage of varying length, and an adult stage that lasts from less than 2 h (Deuterophlebidae) to several weeks or even months (some female Culicidae). The eggs of aquatic flies are usually laid singly, in small clusters, or in loose or compact masses in or near the water and attached to rocks or vegetation. In Deuterophlebiidae and certain members of some other groups, the female crawls beneath the water to select oviposition sites, a behavior that ensures eggs are placed in a suitable larval habitat. The latter also is typical of many terrestrial flies, such as calliphorids, which will lay their eggs near the body openings (eyes, nose, mouth, anus) of carcasses. Some tephritid fruit flies use a rigid ovipositor to pierce plant tissue. Oviposition in parasitic flies can be complex and may involve placement of eggs in or on the host or in areas frequented by the host. Some parasitoids (e.g., some tachinid flies) produce eggs that are ingested by a feeding host, then larvae hatch inside the host and penetrate the gut wall. Furthermore, some parasitic groups will oviposit on a blood-feeding arthropod (e.g., tick or another fly), with the heat of the next host stimulating hatching.

All instars occur in the same habitat in most taxa. Exceptions include flies that demonstrate hypermetamorphosis, which is characterized by an active, slender first instar (plani-dium) and grublike, endoparasitic later instars. Acroceridae, Nemestrinidae, and Bombyliidae are among the better known groups with hypermetamorphic representatives. In general, the duration of the first larval stage is shortest, whereas that of the last instar is much greater, often several weeks or even months.


The diversity of Diptera habitats is partly a reflection of the different ecological roles of larvae and adults, with larvae generally adapted for feeding and growth and adults for reproduction and dispersal. Whereas fly larvae occur in both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, virtually all adults are terrestrial and capable of flight. Wingless and, therefore, flightless groups include certain tipulids, marine chironomids, and phorids, as well as ectoparasitic adults of Hippoboscidae and Nycterobiidae. Adult flies are arguably one of the most aerial of organisms. Swarms of flies, which usually consist primarily of males, are a common sight in many areas. These aggregations, often for the purpose of enhancing male visibility to prospective female mates, may be seen along roadsides, over certain trees or bushes, above sunlit pools along streams, at the summits of hills, in sunny gaps of forest canopies, or at any number of other swarm markers. Swarming is probably a primitive feature of Diptera, which might explain the prevalence of this behavior in nematocerous groups. These Diptera and other flies share a number of structural features that might be adapted for swarming, including enlarged compound eyes and wings with well-developed anal lobes. These features and others are thought to assist flies in both maneuvering in flight and perceiving conspecific individuals in swarms. Swarming and related behaviors are especially developed in Bibionidae and Empididae. Males of the latter group are known for their predaceous habits and the elaborate behaviors and "nuptial gifts" for prospective female mates. Other groups (e.g., Bombyliidae, Syrphidae) are among the most agile flying insects, being particularly adept at hovering.

Diptera larvae have colonized a variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including water (e.g., Simuliidae, Culicidae, Chironomidae), soil and damp sediments (e.g., Tipulidae, Ceratopogonidae, Tabanidae), rotting wood (e.g., Tipulidae, Mycetophilidae,), fruit (e.g., Tephritidae), decaying organic material (e.g., Muscidae, Sarcophagidae), and the tissues of living organisms (e.g., Sciomyzidae, Oestridae, Tachinidae). Despite this diversity of habitats, most larvae are in a broad sense aquatic. Even "terrestrial" groups from decomposing vegetation, carcasses, leaf litter, rotting wood, or soil often live in a rather aqueous environment. This requirement for a damp environment partly reflects that the larval cuticle is usually thin, soft, and susceptible to drying. Truly aquatic larvae occur in coastal marine, saline, and estuarine waters, shallow and deep lakes, ponds, cold and hot springs, plant cavities (phytotelmata), artificial containers, slow to torrential streams, groundwater zones, and even natural seeps of crude petroleum! Aquatic habits are most prevalent in larvae of nematocerous flies, including all or most Culicidae, Simuliidae, and Chironomidae. Among brachycerous flies, aquatic habits are most common in ephydrids, sciomyzids, and tabanids. In some groups, such as muscoid flies, only a few species are aquatic.

Trophic Relationships

Their trophic diversity and numerical abundance make the Diptera an important component in many ecosystems, both as primary consumers and as a food resource for other organisms. Trophic diversity is reflected in the wide range of larval feeding habits, which encompass nearly every category. In some groups (e.g., asilids, most empidids), larvae and adults belong to the same trophic category; in other groups (e.g., simuliids, tachinids) these life stages usually adopt different feeding strategies; in still others, feeding can be restricted to only the larvae or adults (e.g., chironomids, hippoboscids, and nycteribiids). The latter comprise primarily the so-called Pupipara, in which the females are hematophagous and do not lay eggs and instead give birth to fully formed larvae (i.e.,viviparous development). In addition to the above-mentioned variety of feeding habits, some groups may feed on multiple food resources during the same life stage (e.g., larvae that can be both saprophagous and predaceous and adults that are both nectarivorous and hematophagous). Larval sciomyzids may feed on dead or living mollusks, and some ephydrid larvae may consume algal, bacterial, or detrital resources during the same instar.

Saprophagous habits are among the most prevalent in Diptera, especially in brachycerous groups. Many fly larvae feed on decaying organic material or organic detritus, in which the resident bacteria and other microorganisms are the primary source of nutrition. Among the more common sources of these materials are animal carcasses, which are frequently colonized by callphorids, muscids, phorids, sphaerocerids, and others. The sequence of colonization is often quite predictable, which contributes to the use of Diptera in forensic studies. Decaying fruit and vegetable material also is colonized by many groups, including especially otitid, sphaerocerid, and muscid flies. Decomposing plant fragments can be an important food resource in aquatic habitats, where it is consumed by the larvae of tipulids, ephydrids, otitids, and other groups. These groups and others (e.g., Psychodidae, Syrphidae, Stratiomyiidae) also contain many species that feed on decaying, fine organic matter and associated microorganisms. Most Culicidae and Simuliidae consume fine particulate organic matter of varying size and quality, but use modified mouth-brushes or labral fans to extract particles from water. In most other saprophagous groups, including aquatic species, a sieve-like pharyngeal filter is used to concentrate microorganisms and other organic particles, whereas those feeding on carrion have well-developed mouthhooks for shredding and macerating raw meat.

Phytophagous groups, which consume live plants (including algae and fungi), are well represented by the larvae of bibionids, cecidomyiids, mycetophilids, tipulids, phorids, tephritids, and agromyzids. Many of these flies can be serious agricultural pests. Aquatic habitats contain numerous flies that consume the thin films of algae and organic matter that occur on rocks and other substrata. Among the more obvious of these aquatic grazers are blepharicerids and certain species of psychodids, simuliids, and ephydrids.

Most predaceous Diptera attack other invertebrates as their primary food. Many families (e.g., Chironomidae, Culicidae, Tipulidae, and Ephydridae) contain a few preda-ceous species, whereas other groups (e.g., Ceratopogonidae and nearly all noncyclorrhaphan Brachycera) feed primarily or exclusively on invertebrates. Vertebrate prey (frogs and salamanders) can be part of the diet of larval Tabanidae. Whereas predaceous larvae typically kill multiple hosts, parasitic and parasitoid larvae generally attack only one host. Parasitoids typically will kill that host, often after a long association with it. Twenty-two families of Diptera include parasitoid members, with tachinid flies perhaps the best known of these. Dipterans are parasitoids of other invertebrates, mostly other arthropods. Because other insects (some pests) often are attacked, parasitoids often are useful for biological control. The Diptera also includes several true parasites, which attack but do not kill the host, such as oestrids and various other groups that often exhibit distinct and complex migrations in vertebrate hosts.

FIGURES 28-31 (28) Female black fly adult (Simuliidae) taking a blood meal. (29) Female mosquito adult (Culicidae: Anopheles) taking a blood meal. (Photographs by R. W. Merritt.) (30) Female sand fly adult (Psychodidae) taking a blood meal. (Photograph by B. Chaniotis.) (31) Female horse fly adult (Tabanidae). (Photograph by R. W. Merritt.)

FIGURES 28-31 (28) Female black fly adult (Simuliidae) taking a blood meal. (29) Female mosquito adult (Culicidae: Anopheles) taking a blood meal. (Photographs by R. W. Merritt.) (30) Female sand fly adult (Psychodidae) taking a blood meal. (Photograph by B. Chaniotis.) (31) Female horse fly adult (Tabanidae). (Photograph by R. W. Merritt.)

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