A Fly Mystery

by Eric Neubauer, elaborated upon by Sue Ann Kendall

A long while back I observed about a half dozen flies of an unknown species, which baffled everyone on iNaturalist. The genus has finally been identified.

Visit the observation on iNaturalist if you want to learn how experts go about narrowing down what genus and species an observation might be. The users aispinsects (Arturo Santos) and tpape (Dr. Thomas Pape of the Natural History Museum of Denmark) worked together through the ID process under that observation, though most was done by Santos. Thank goodness the photos were so good, as details like veining are very helpful in identifying flies. It’s gratifying to see two true experts helping out with the identification of this unusual fly with very small eyes and an atypical head shape.

One thing we do know about these flies is that the fly maggots are parasitic on lizards. You can see an infected anole lizard on the iNat page for Lepidodexia if your stomach is strong (that’s from Sue Ann).

As often happens with the oddities I get fixated on, I’m immediately top observer. There are only ten observations of the Lepidodexia on iNat at present (one new one happened recently). No doubt there are others as yet unidentified.

I need to look at flies some more.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Pape’s comments. He thinks he knows the species for the fly, but is not sure:

“The large flesh fly genus Lepidodexia is mainly Neotropical and has several very tachinid-like species. There are a few Nearctic species, and the present certainly fits the genus and may very well be Lepidodexia hirculus, see: http://diptera.dk/sarco/Detail_s.php?RecordNumber=11734
Very little is known on the biology of species of Lepidodexia, but they include as varied breeding records as live frogs, lizards, snails and earthworms.”

Santos is a wonderful contributor to iNat and has helped identify many flies around the world. He’s a citizen scientist at its best!

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