Biologists Find Fossils of Previously Unknown Species of Big-Headed Flies

Posted on January 22, 2014

Big headed fly fossil, Metanephrocerus belgardeae


Biologists have discovered fossils of previously unknown species of big-headed flies. The flies lived about 50 million years ago during the Eocene epoch. The biologists include Bruce Archibald and Rolf Mathewes from Simon Fraser University and Christian Kehlmaier from Germany's Senkenberg Natural History Collections.

The fossil flies belong to the living family Pipunculidae. A photograph of a modern big-headed fly can be found here. One of the fossils (pictured above) was well-enough preserved for it to be named as a new species. It was named Metanephrocerus belgardeae in honor of its finder, Azure Rain Belgarde, a student at the Paschal Sherman Indian School.

Bruce Archibald says in a release, "Big-headed flies are a group of bizarre insects whose round heads are almost entirely covered by their bulging compound eyes, which they use to hunt for mainly leafhoppers and planthoppers, renowned common garden insect pests. The newly discovered species were preserved in Eocene epoch fossil beds that are 49 million to 52 million years old, which is about 12 million to 15 million years after the extinction of the dinosaurs. This great extinction event also disrupted forests in which the dinosaurs had lived, with mostly low diversity and greatly disrupted food webs for millions of years."

The research was published here in The Canadian Entomologist.

Photo: Bruce Archibald/Simon Fraser University