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Splayed deer fly

Chrysops caecutiens

Photo: Splayed deer fly
Weights and measures
Length 11 mm
Biological data
Lifespan from 3 to 5 years
Animal description
The Splayed Deer Fly, scientifically known as Chrysops caecutiens, is a fascinating and somewhat less known species within the Tabanidae family, which encompasses various biting fly species. This particular species, while not as widely recognized as some of its relatives, plays a unique role in its ecosystem and exhibits several interesting characteristics that distinguish it from other flies.

Appearance-wise, the Splayed Deer Fly is notable for its striking coloration and pattern. The body of Chrysops caecutiens is predominantly black, adorned with distinctive white or yellowish markings that can vary in intensity among individuals. These markings are not just for show; they serve as a form of camouflage, breaking up the fly's outline among the dappled sunlight of its forest habitat. The wings of the Splayed Deer Fly are another point of interest, featuring a splayed pattern that gives the species its common name. The wings are clear but with dark bands or spots that can appear splayed or spread out, making them quite distinctive when viewed against the light.

Size-wise, the Splayed Deer Fly is similar to other deer flies, typically measuring between 8 to 12 mm in length. This size allows it to be agile in flight, an essential trait for both avoiding predators and pursuing its blood meals.

The Splayed Deer Fly, like other members of its family, is hematophagous during its adult stage, meaning it feeds on blood. Females are the primary biters, requiring blood meals to develop their eggs. They are not particularly choosy about their hosts, feeding on a variety of mammals, including deer, cattle, and even humans. Their bite is often painful and can cause allergic reactions in some individuals, making them a nuisance during outdoor activities in areas where they are prevalent.

The life cycle of the Splayed Deer Fly is complex and involves several stages. After feeding and mating, the female lays her eggs on vegetation near water bodies or in moist soil. Upon hatching, the larvae, which are predatory, feed on small invertebrates in the soil or water. After several molts, they pupate, emerging as adults ready to continue the cycle. This life cycle ties the Splayed Deer Fly closely to wetland and forested habitats, where it can find both the water necessary for its larvae and the vegetation that supports the adults and their prey.

In terms of distribution, Chrysops caecutiens is found in various parts of the world, particularly in temperate regions where its preferred habitats—forests and wetlands—are abundant. Their presence is not just of interest to those studying insects; it also has implications for public health and animal welfare, given their role in transmitting diseases and causing distress to livestock.

Despite the challenges they can pose, Splayed Deer Flies are an integral part of their ecosystems. They act as pollinators, albeit less efficiently than bees or butterflies, and their larvae help control populations of other invertebrates. Understanding the role of species like Chrysops caecutiens is crucial for biodiversity conservation efforts, highlighting the complex interconnections that sustain natural environments.
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