World of Flesh Flies Introduction to the flesh flies

Flesh flies (Sarcophagidae) belong to the calyptrate flies (Calyptratae) along with house flies, blow flies and others. They are a medium-sized family with some 2600 described species world-wide. Although the name would seem to indicate a habit of breeding in vertebrate carcases, this is by no means typical for the family, which includes specialists ranging from inhabitants of pitcher plants to bat coprophages, crab saprophages, wasp nest inquilines, and insect parasitoids. A much more typical trait of the family is the ovo-larvipary, which was observed and documented already by Reaumur (1738) and De Geer (1776).

Carolus Linnaeus described a single flesh fly species: Musca carnaria, and many species were added by productive older authors like J.W. Meigen, J.B. Robineau-Desvoidy and J. Macquart. The insight provided by Luis Pandellé, that the male terminalia of the Sarcophaginae provided the most reliable diagnostic characters, paved the way for major progress in flesh fly taxonomy. Incidentally, Pandellé himself did not give any illustrations, and apart from the very early illustration of the phallus of Sarcophaga similis in De Geer (1776), the first to actually publish a drawing of a sarcophagine phallus in association with a diagnosis seems to be Villeneuve (1899) in his description of Sarcophaga vicina [= Sarcophaga subvicina Rohdendorf].

Revisionary works by especially G. Böttcher were soon followed by extensive papers by several authors, of which particularly B.B. Rohdendorf, H.S. Lopes, F. Zumpt, R. Kano, D. Povolný, Yu.G. Verves and A.Z. Lehrer have provided much of the fundamental taxonomy of the family.

The Sarcophagidae may have arisen during the diversification of the early calyptrate lineages in the early Cretaceous. The subfamily Sarcophaginae seems to have had much of its early diversification in the New World, while the Miltogramminae are most diverse in the Old World. The Paramacronychiinae make up a rather small subfamily, that is almost restricted to the Nearctic and Palaearctic Regions. Only few species reaches into the northern part of the Neotropic Region, and only two species have been recorded from the southern parts of the Afrotropical region. No representative is known from Australia. Unfortunately, there are no fossil flesh flies.

Content by T. Pape on behalf of the editorial group.
Please send any comments about these pages to Thomas Pape.
Last updated: 25 October 2009.
Back to the World of Flesh Flies.