Corpse-Eating Flies Are Back From the Dead

Rediscovered after disappearing for over a century
By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 6, 2013 5:07 PM CDT
The thyreophora cynophila or bone-skipper   (Wikimedia Commons / Georg Panzer and Jacob Sturm)

(Newser) – Bone-skippers—flies that feast on large, decaying dead bodies—were believed to be extinct for more than a century. But three species of the fly have been spotted in Europe in recent years, sparking a renewed interest in these seriously creepy-crawlies, reports LiveScience. The first part of the name comes from the prominent bones in the carcasses where they live. The second? Because the flies "skip" or jump inside of the corpses, causing them to look "alive with larvae," says Italian scientist Pierfilippo Cerretti, who has been researching the bugs.

Bone-skippers probably disappeared from view because we tend to dispose of dead bodies—both human and animal—more quickly these days, adds LiveScience. Because most of the new sightings have been by amateur bug hunters, Cerretti and his team have published a new "type specimen" or "neotype" to which suspected bone-skippers can be compared. The "previous taxonomy was almost completely incorrect—a mess," says Cerretti. "If you have no good specimens, you have no good taxonomy." (In other wild insect news, a "crazy ants" invasion is afoot.)

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