Fruit flies are pretty small. But they laugh at a species of fly recently discovered in Thailand. Dubbed Euryplatea nanaknihali, this member of the phorid fly family is less than half a millimeter long—a fifth the size of a fruit fly.
But before you ooh and aah over the “cute widdle bug,” bear in mind that it probably makes its living cutting off the heads of tiny ants. The fly is described in the Annals of the Entomological Society of America. [Brian V. Brown, "Small Size No Protection for Acrobat Ants: World's Smallest Fly Is a Parasitic Phorid (Diptera: Phoridae)"]
Many phorid species lay their eggs in living ants. The newly hatched larvae move to the ants’ heads, feed on them and eventually decapitate them.
But some ants were considered immune to the parasitic threat because they were too small for any known fly species to fit into their heads. With the discovery of the littlest phorid fly, however, that size advantage—or rather, lack-of-size advantage—vanishes.
It’s not definite yet, but the new little fly probably is an ant eater: its pointy abdomen is well adapted to pierce an ant’s body for egg-laying purposes. How adorable is that?
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]