(CN) – A newly identified fly species – the smallest one found so far – has been named after an unlikely person: the decidedly not-small fitness and acting superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger.
At just 0.395 millimeters long, Megapropodiphora arnoldi is the smallest known fly. Despite its tiny body, one aspect of the insect’s physique reminded Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County entomologist Brian Brown of Schwarzenegger, a seven-time winner of the Mr. Olympia contest – the world’s top bodybuilding competition.
“As soon as I saw those bulging legs, I knew I had to name this one after Arnold,” said Brown, who discovered the fly in the Brazilian Amazon. “Not only is he a major cultural icon and an important person in the political realm, his autobiography gave me some hope that I could improve my body as a skinny teenager.”
Unlike its bulky forelegs, M. arnoldi’s mid and hind legs are quite small. Its wings are just tiny stubs.
While the fly has not been observed in the wild, Brown finds that it is clearly a parasitoid, likely of termites or ants, based on its sharp, pointed ovipositor – an organ that fish and insects use to lay eggs. He also speculates that these flies likely grab onto hosts and “hold on for dear life” until they establish a nest or colony, enabling them to infest their victims more effectively.
Brown has had great success discovering small fly species, which he considers “the continuing frontier for insect discovery.”
The researcher also discovered what used to be the world’s smallest fly, at 0.4 millimeters in length.
Many of the larger insects have already been described. By examining smaller specimens, particularly from remote tropical sites, Brown finds that nearly everything is new.
He has even discovered and described news species in Los Angeles. He and his collaborators found that almost half of the phorid flies in the city were previously unknown.
Last year, the researchers finally determined why a secretive fly had been seen around mushrooms for nearly 50 years without a clear explanation. The breakthrough occurred after Los Angeles bed-and-breakfast owners Patsy Carter and Lisa Carter-Davis alerted entomologists about the phenomenon, which was happening in their yard.
In 2016, Brown and his team discovered and described 12 scuttle fly species after exploring several backyards around Los Angeles.