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Prepare to be (fly) blown away

June 3, 2016

184In the biological cycle we tend to overlook the things that die. What happens to them? How come we are not knee deep in carcasses? A set of photographs sent in by Judy from Limestone really shows you what a dog-eat-dog or in this case a beetle-eat-maggot world it is out there. The pictures were taken of a fly-blown fox carcass. In them you can clearly see fly maggots feeding on the carcass but feeding on the maggots are two species of beetle.

185The beetle with the red head is known by the ominous name, Devil’s Coach Horse (Creophilus erythrocephalus) (from the Greek eruthros meaning red and kephale meaning head). It has large powerful jaws for cutting open prey. Unlike many beetles, its hard wing-casings only cover a small part of the abdomen. Active mainly at night the Devil’s Coach Horses are one of the first species to arrive at a dead animal (obviously after the flies have been there). The adult beetles feed on maggots and pupae of flies. The upper left photograph clearly shows a beetle with a maggot clenched firmly in its jaws. These beetles lay eggs in the carcass and the emerging larvae also voraciously predate on maggots.

186The brown, flattish shaped beetle with the handsome orange-tipped antennae is a Carrion Beetle (Ptomaphila lacrymosa) which as the name suggests feeds on the flesh of dead animals but also on fly larvae. They are distinguished by short, longitudinal ridges (called tubercules) on the wing-casings. Both beetles play an important role in maintaining a clean environment and reducing the risk of disease by consuming carcasses and/or fly larvae.

Alien (the movie) has nothing on real life!

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