Terrible Hairy fly found for the first time since 1948
December 2010. Dr. Robert Copeland, a scientist with the institute of “African Insect Science for Food and Health” (icipe), and a fellow dipterist (fly scientist) Mr. Ashley Kirk-Spriggs from National Museum, Bloemfontein, South Africa, have re-discovered the world’s rarest and strangest fly, known as Mormotomyia hirsuta, or the “terrible, hairy fly”. The two scientists found the fly in its only known location; a single cave-like rock cleft in Ukazi Hill, along the Thika-Garissa Road, in Kenya. Pending further study, should the fly be found to be restricted to this tiny habitat, there is a possibility that the entire Ukazi Hill could be declared a national heritage site.
Expedition footage of a Female and Male Fly walking (it has no wings!).
Mormotomyia hirsuta, the Terrible, Hairy Fly was first described by Major E. E. Austen from two specimens collected by H. B. Sharpe in 1933. Since then, it has been collected only once, by V. G. L. and Cunningham van Someren in 1948. The latter collectors are responsible for the substantial number of specimens available in the NMK and international museums.
Besides its rather bizarre appearance (it has non-functional, strap-like wings, eyes greatly reduced in size, long, spider-like legs and a dense covering of yellowish hairs, more pronounced in the males), the fly is of great importance because nobody really knows what other fly family, if any, it is related to.
The old material collected in 1948 has DNA but it is not of high-enough quality to use in the molecular methods required to answer this question; thus, the interest in re-collecting this species.
Ukazi Hill, home of the Terrible, Hairy Fly (amusing video footage from the expatiation).
The type locality is in the eastern, dry and hot part of Kenya, and both previous collections were made during or just after heavy rains which washed the fly out of its cave home, where it develops on bat guano.