Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Delhi Sands of Time

I think I may have found the most controversial EUT to date. Many websites still call this animal “the only fly presently on the Endangered Species List,” which was correct, until last year. I seem to have a thing for writing a fly post in December, but you’ll have to check back next year to see if the trend still holds.
Image from University of California Riverside

The Delhi Sands Flower-Loving Fly (Rhaphiomidas terminatus abdominalis) is endemic to the fine sand (also known as Delhi sand) dunes of southern California. The second part of its name comes from the fact that the adults feed on nectar from flowers in a manner reminiscent of hummingbirds, or, probably more accurately, hawk moths.

Parts of the lifestyle of this insect are still unknown. They are typically only seen as adults. There is a single mating season each year, from August to September, where the female will lay about 50 eggs into the sand. At that point, who knows? The larvae stay underground for probably two years, and may be predatory. I would be willing to guess that those suppositions come from studies of other Flower-Loving Flies (family Apioceridae).

The Delhi Sands area covers about 40 square miles, and it is thought that the Flower-Loving Fly occupied most of it. Now, with habitat degradation and loss, it now lives in 2.5 percent of that entire area. The conservation efforts for this animal, begun in 1993, has stirred tempers, and even gotten a (very brief) mention on NPR. To protect the habitat, the Fish and Wildlife Service set aside areas for the fly to thrive. The problem: some of that land is private property. Needless to say, landowners and developers got angry, which, of course, got conservationists angry. To this day, no one has stopped shouting.

1 comment:

membracid said...

I think it's kinda cute, myself!

Insects are very underrepresented in terms of conservation listing. Just check with the Xerces Society.