Monday, July 8, 2013

Back from the dead

A bug was spotted in Spain in 2010, some 160 years after it was thought to have gone extinct. The reason why the little insect is grabbing headlines is that – like the phorid fly – the bone-skipper feasts on decaying flesh, including that of humans. One species of bone-skipper, referred to as the "dog fly" because of the carcass it was eating, was discovered in Germany in 1798. Another species was described in 1830 by a scientist who had observed the insects destroying dissected preparations at the Paris School of Medicine 9 years earlier. More recently, bone-skippers have been spotted by amateurs and photographed or videotaped, but actual specimens have not been collected. "If you have no good specimens, you have no good taxonomy," says Pierfilippo Cerretti of the Sapienza University of Rome, who has finally established a type specimen (Centrophlebomyia anthropophaga) in the scientific literature.

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