Looking Fly! Hey, What’s That On Your Wings?!

FruitFlyAnts01It doesn’t get any crazier than this. It seems there is a real live fruit fly that sports genetically coded images of smaller ants on its two wings. Look at the photo for yourself. I’m guessing they refer to the ant images as their “wingmen”!

The scientific name for this fruit fly is Goniurellia tridens, a member of the tephritidae family. That “family” is one of two on that evolutionary tree that contain at least 5,000 different fruit flies, so wonderfully marked that they are called “peacock flies”.

According to reporter Andrew Kevkin (NYT) from a paper written by Anna Zacharias, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), there are 27 “picture wing species” known to science. They’re not all as complex as the one sported by G. tridens, but they are notable to be sure.

FruitFlyAnts02Dr. Brigitte Howarth of Zayed University discovered G. tridens in the UAE. According to Dr. Howarth, “I was looking at the stem of the [Oleander] leaves and I noticed that there were some insects crawling around. When I sort of honed in I started to notice what I thought was a couple of ants moving around.” Her first guess was that ants were infesting the fly’s wings, “But it was so symmetrical that I thought, ‘oh this is not possible’. When I got it under the microscope I realized that these were insects painted onto the wings.”

Others have suggested that the ants look more like spiders because some tephritids (same family) have markings on their wings that look more like spiders. Their theory is that when a predatory spider creeps close to the fly, it sees the spider-like marking and displays to what it perceives as another spider. That alerts the fly to its presence so it can get away.

Who knows, nature can be quite conniving at times, so it may be true. I’m sure further research will sort it all out.

But what an extraordinary world we live in! Measly little fruit flies with wonderfully marked wings. Life never ceases to amaze.

Til the next time!



  1. That is the most amazing and intricate form of camouflage I’ve ever seen on a species! I believe that could not have happened by chance, that only a master creator could have done that. Could a bug paint another bug onto itself?

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