December 30, 2010

A bug SO gross, even scientists keep their distance!

The bone skipper (Thyreophora cynophila) is a strange fly. Here’s why:
  • The bone skipper feeds on the rotten flesh of large mammals.
  • It only comes out at night.
  • The bone skipper has a large, orange head that glows. Wow!

Bone skippers get their name because they eat and breed in the bone marrow of big animals. In the old days, that might be a deer that some wolves caught. Today, it might be road kill.

For the last 160 years, everyone thought the bone skipper was extinct. But it’s not! It turns out that scientists were just too squeamish to inspect the decaying bodies of dead mammals!

FUN FACT: The bone skipper’s relative is the cheese skipper. Its maggots make casa marzu: The demon’s cheese! (You’ll have to read The Big Book of Gross Stuff for that one.)
Images from New Scientist.

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