Thursday, December 9, 2010

Where have you been all this time? Africa's flightless 'terrible hairy fly' found on remote Kenyan rock after 62-year search


More of a walk than a fly: One of the rarest flies in the world - the Mormotomiya Hirsuta - has been found in remote Kenya

It went missing for 62 years, but now Africa's 'terrible hairy fly' has been discovered in remote caves in Kenya.

The insect, which does not have fully-formed wings and so is unable to fly, is one of the rarest creatures in the world.

Scientists first stumbled across the yellow-haired fly in 1933 and then again in 1948.

Rare: The 'terrible hairy fly' is an appropriate nick-name

Since then, at least half a dozen expeditions have visited a site between the towns of Thika and Garissa to find it again.

At less than half-an-inch long and so far found on a single 65ft-high rock, the Mormotomyia hirsuta looks more like a spider with its hairy legs, scientists said.

Partial to breeding in bat faeces, the fly is thought to live only in the dank, bat-filled cleft of an isolated rock in the Ukazi Hills.

It also has non-functional wings that resemble miniature belt-straps, and tiny eyes.

Dr Robert Copeland of the Nairobi-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology said the fly's physical appearance had left scientists bamboozled about where exactly it belonged in the entire order of Diptera, or 'true flies'.

Cave dweller: The fly was found in just one area and breeds in bat faeces

Important discovery: Scientists are debating where the insect should be classified

'We have collected fresh specimens for molecular analysis to see where exactly the "terrible hairy fly" fits into the evolutionary process,' said Dr. Copeland.

'The fly has no obvious adaptations for clinging onto other animals for transfer from one place to another.

'With its long legs, it could perhaps wrap itself around a bat and get a ride... but it's never been found elsewhere.'

The Mormotomyia hirsuta is the only member of its biological family and some fly experts reckon the fly will eventually prove to be the only family of fly completely restricted to Africa.

source: dailymail

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