Picture Winged Flies

Male Hawaiian picture winged flies fighting for dominance. Two kinds of fruit fly accidentally arrived in Hawaii long ago when these oceanic islands were young. From them more than 800 species known as picture wings are believed to be descended, some well known, others awaiting investigation or even discovery. Picture wing flies have striking black and white patterns on their wings, and are larger than many of the others.

Several different kinds of picture wings live together in the same patch of forest. So what stops them interbreeding? The answer lies in their bizarre courtship rituals and contests, for which males of each kind have their own special body design and behaviour.

These males are fighting for the right to mate with a female of their type. In this trial of strength each contestant recognises the body and body language of its rival. Some kinds struggle on tip toe, wing tip to wing tip. (Seen here in a still taken from a movie clip from NHNZ Images.)

Others will head butt rather in the manner of rutting rams. The biggest head gets the girl, which implies a natural selection of mates and a species set apart by that feature and that behaviour.

So among the several hundred species each male only fights a matching male, and then the winner goes on to bid for the favours of an appropriate receptive female. And even females are choosy about male credentials.

The patterns on his wings are a crucial badge of identity, but not the compete passport of success. She will respond only to his full routine, an elaborate song and dance. Vibrating his body produces a seductive hum; his pirouette showers an aphrodisiac pheromone over his head and hers.

Male picture winged fly wafting pheromones over female during courtship Proboscis to proboscis they kiss, as he presents her a gift of food. Brushes at the end of his tail waft his scent vigorously around her. The wrong perfume, the wrong dance, or the wrong costume or the wrong song just won't do. Only this ceremony will work for this kind of fly. The 800 or so others have evolved their own specific routines, isolating the one kind from the other.

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