They’re small and full of attitude, and they carry out their life cycle on discarded moose and deer antlers! Antler Fly research is truly a home-grown project here at the AWRS. In 1995, then graduate student Russell Bonduriansky described the species, their ecology, and their behaviour from specimens collected on dropped moose antlers. In the decades that have followed, the Antler Fly has become a fascinating emerging model in evolutionary ecology and the study of aging (senescence), in particular. This unique species has provided the first evidence of senescence – declining survival rate and reproductive rate – and its fitness costs in an insect population in the wild.
Chris Angell, PhD Candidate at the University of Ottawa, has been investigating the causes and consequences of senescence in a wild population of Antler Flies for the past several years. In his words, “Antler flies, with high site fidelity and short adult life span, provide a rich opportunity to study the evolutionary ecology of aging in the wild, without the prohibitive time and resource costs required for vertebrate research“.
New research published by Chris and research assistant Olivia Cook took a closer look at these curious insects and their livelihoods on moose antlers of differing quality. Take a look!
Research summary: Antler flies are tiny flies that live only on discarded moose and deer antlers. They are an emerging model for studying how animals age in the wild, but we know little about the juvenile stages of this species. In this study, we collected antler fly larvae that had grown in three different antlers to get an idea of what factors affect their growth and development. Larvae from one of the antlers, which was older and had a high larval density, took a long time to become adults and reached smaller sizes. Our results suggest that population density is an important factor in how these insects grow and develop in the wild.
Angell, C.S., and O. Cook. 2019. Natural variation in the growth and development of Protopiophila litigata (Diptera: Piophilidae) developing in three moose (Artiodactyla: Cervidae) antlers. The Canadian Entomologist (in press).
Congratulations on your research paper, Chris and Olivia!