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New fly named after Schwarzenegger

It is quite common to put the name of a famous person – a musician, an actor, a film director, etc. – to a newly discovered species from the animal world . We already knew the Darth Vader beetle ( Agathidium Vaderi ), the Angelina Jolie spider ( Aptostichus Angelinajolieae ) or the Charles Chaplin fly ( Campsicnemius charliechaplini ).

Now it is the turn of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose name has been used to baptize a newly discovered fly in the Brazilian Amazon and which they have called Megapropodiphora arnoldi .

Its discoverer, entomologist Brian Brown, of the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History (United States), was very clear from the beginning how he wanted to baptize it. “As soon as I saw those bulging legs, I knew I had to call this species by the name Arnold,” he explains. “He’s not just a great cultural icon and politically important person – his autobiography gave me hope that I could improve my body as a skinny teenager,” adds Brown, who has published his research paper in Biodiversity Data magazine. Journal .

The smallest in the world

But this new species not only attracts attention for its sturdy constitution, but also, the Megapropodiphora arnoldi is “incredibly small” , says this scholar of insects. “We have only seen a female specimen that we almost missed” due to its size, explains the American researcher.

In fact, it has become the smallest known fly in the world , according to Brown, who was also the discoverer of the species previously considered as such and which was 0.4 millimeters long: the Euryplatea nanaknihali , a forida fly from Thailand. 15 times smaller than a house fly. It belongs to the brachycephalic family of diptera Phoridae , known for decapitating ants: they inject their eggs into the body of these and the larvae feed on the inside of the ant’s head, finally causing decapitation.

This new species, Megapropodiphora arnoldi, is even smaller than the Thai one: it is 0.395 millimeters long . Although its front legs are bulky – as can be seen in the image – the back and middle legs are very small, as well as the wings. Brian Brown believes that these flies are parasitoids, probably from ants or termites: they cling to their hosts until they reach their colony, where the flies can more effectively parasitize their victims.

Brown owes its reputation to having found new species of tiny flies, which are, in his words, “the continuing frontier for insect discovery.” And it has its merit, because it is much easier to locate and describe larger insects than to observe much smaller ones, and especially in tropical places. But they don’t just find them in remote settings: in their hometown of Los Angeles as well, Brown and his team have discovered nearly half of the Phoridae flies that were unknown .

Image by A. Schwarzenegger: Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Commons

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