Our Bushland Diary

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Skinny little blokes and big fat women...

Here's a strange little insect that I've only just come across recently, and goes by the name of Bird of Paradise Fly. However, it's not a fly at all. The male has two shiny wings, long antennae like a moth, and long silky hairs projecting from the end of the abdomen. My bushwalking buddy David found this little animal sunning himself on top of a shrub in Bush Forever Site 300 (north of Charlotte's Vineyard). It seemed quite active, and wary of our cameras.

That shiny train does remind me of the extravagant tails and adornment feathers of the Birds of Paradise of New Guinea.

Then we later found this big fat leathery creature clinging to a banksia tree. With its plump hairless body, it looks a bit like an engorged tick, or a wingless cockroach. It is the most unlikely looking insect I've seen for a while. What is it?

You might be surprised to hear that it's the female Bird of Paradise Fly. She's a lot bigger than the male, moves slowly, and doesn't appear to be concerned about paparazzi.

When the adult male and female of a species are really different from each other, scientists call that "sexual dimorphism". I find it amazing that these two are still attracted to each other after all these millenia, enough to continue their species. Bird of Paradise Flies belong to the Margarodidae family, along with mayflies. The genus is called Callipappus. The species in the photos above has the common name "Silver Phoenix". (Click on the link for more information.)

Here's a link to a species in Brisbane with the common name "Violet Phoenix".

Every time I go out in our local bushland, something new pops up!

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