Posted by: scrubmuncher | November 1, 2009

Scoundrels – #10

Nature is full deception. There are loads of animals that live their life by pretending to be something else. Over the next few days we’ll take a look at ten of the animal kingdom’s best deceivers, starting with this one at number 10:

The little insect below is a native of Southeast Asia, but for the past few years it has been submerged in alcohol, not because it’s a heavy drinker, but because it blundered into a malaise trap that was left out to see what insects inhabit the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia.

Chrysonelid-mimicking fly

Mutant leaf-beetle or body-concious fly? (Ross Piper)

What’s so special about this then you may be thinking? It’s just another little insect. True, but what type of insect is it? If you think it’s a beetle then good effort, alas, no cigar. It does look like a beetle, but it’s really a celyphid fly pretending to be a beetle. Its disguise is convincing, all the way down to the fake elytra (wing covers).

Why pretend to be a beetle? What’s wrong with an honest, albeit irritating, good old fashioned fly? Plenty. Flies get eaten by lots of things, because apart from being nifty in the air they’re pretty defenceless. On the other-hand, the beetles these flies mimic, chrysomelids (leaf beetles), taste foul thanks to their ability to harness a plant’s chemical defences to protect themselves. By looking like these beetles, the flies are given a wide berth by the predators that would otherwise quite happily scoff them.

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