Researchers have unraveled the mystery of Alaska's „snake worm” by discovering a new species of fungus-eating fly whose young insects combine to form long gray snake-like slithers.
The snake worm mystery began 16 years ago in the summer of 2007, when Ester resident Maggie Billington saw thousands of tiny, worm-like larvae crawling along the road in a long line.
Billington was a volunteer at the University of Alaska Museum in Fairbanks at the time, so he documented the strange sighting and brought back photos and specimens. Derek SykesCurator of Insects of the Museum.
„I thought they must be fly larvae, but had never heard of this snakeworm phenomenon,” Sykes said. Report. „I'm stunned. It's a whole X-Files case for me.”
Sykes and his colleagues now identify the larvae in a new study published Dec. 30 in the journal Integrated Systems: Stuttgart Contributions to Natural History. The species, which they named Sciara serpens, is one of several rarely studied flies in which the larvae mimic snakes.
The researchers hypothesized that these larvae take the form of snakes to scare away birds and other predators or to crawl in a row one after the other to conserve moisture on dry ground.
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The new species belongs to the Chiaridae fly family, commonly known as fungus gnats because they feed on decaying organic matter. Many flies are difficult to tell apart in their juvenile stages, so Sikes observed larvae collected from the second snakeworm sighting in 2007 until they emerged into their dark winged fly form.
The Alaskan fungus gnats raised by Sykes closely resembled the European mosquito. Ciara is amazing Previously identified North American species were reported in Maryland and Arkansas.
But as of 2021, the group has confirmed the species is new to science. Lead author Thales PereiraAn entomologist at the Alaska Museum of the North examined the male mosquito's genitalia under a powerful microscope and found significant differences in shape compared to its European cousin.
While it may seem odd that the Alaskan mosquito has more in common with mosquitoes in Europe than its fellow North American species, the study authors noted that it follows a pattern among other insects in Alaska, such as grasshoppers and beetles, and possibly dates. Return Pleistocene (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago). At that time, Alaska was connected to Europe and Asia Bering Land Bridgeallows Insects to disperse From eastern Siberia to Alaska, large ice sheets block the rest of North America.
Although Sykes and his team were able to identify the species behind the snakeworm phenomenon, scientists still have a lot of work to do to fully understand these fungus gnats and their strange larval habits.
Also, Sykes and other snakeworm witnesses saw beetles running around with larvae, which could also be investigated. Beetles can eat young flies, but when Sykes put them together in a lab, the beetles mostly ignored the larvae, the study found.
„Oddany rozwiązywacz problemów. Przyjazny hipsterom praktykant bekonu. Miłośnik kawy. Nieuleczalny introwertyk. Student.