Night Flyers

A sampling of the children of the night, all pulled to the lights of Bradford, MA during my recent week away from NYC.

This last is a giant crane fly of some kind. I only noticed this detail upon examining the image: the two club-like structures beneath the wings. Then I stumbled across what they are, literally stumbled, with my fingers, as I was fanning through Richard Dawkins’ Greatest Show on Earth. They’re the halteres, which “swing like very high-speed Indian clubs,” acting as tiny gyroscopes, helping to stabilize the flying beastie. Most insects have four wings; Diptera, the flies, as their order name suggests, have two. But they also have these halteres, which are descended from ancestral wings; in the embryo, they are wings, until, following gene expression, they aren’t.

2 Responses to “Night Flyers”

  1. 1 Amarilla June 11, 2010 at 9:23 am

    That one on the top is so handsome, kind of irresistible.

  2. 2 Joy K. June 11, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve never noticed the halteres on crane flies. I’ll be more on the lookout from now on.

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