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Chasing flies: The use of wingbeat frequency as a communication cue in calyptrate flies (Diptera: Calyptratae)

Pinto, J., Magni, P.A., O’Brien, R.C. and Dadour, I.R. (2022) Chasing flies: The use of wingbeat frequency as a communication cue in calyptrate flies (Diptera: Calyptratae). Insects, 13 (9). Article 822.

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The incidental sound produced by the oscillation of insect wings during flight provides an opportunity for species identification. Calyptrate flies include some of the fastest and most agile flying insects, capable of rapid changes in direction and the fast pursuit of conspecifics. This flight pattern makes the continuous and close recording of their wingbeat frequency difficult and limited to confined specimens. Advances in sound editor and analysis software, however, have made it possible to isolate low amplitude sounds using noise reduction and pitch detection algorithms. To explore differences in wingbeat frequency between genera and sex, 40 specimens of three-day old Sarcophaga crassipalpis, Lucilia sericata, Calliphora dubia, and Musca vetustissima were individually recorded in free flight in a temperature-controlled room. Results showed significant differences in wingbeat frequency between the four species and intersexual differences for each species. Discriminant analysis classifying the three carrion flies resulted in 77.5% classified correctly overall, with the correct classification of 82.5% of S. crassipalpis, 60% of C. dubia, and 90% of L. sericata, when both mean wingbeat frequency and sex were included. Intersexual differences were further demonstrated by male flies showing significantly higher variability than females in three of the species. These observed intergeneric and intersexual differences in wingbeat frequency start the discussion on the use of the metric as a communication signal by this taxon. The success of the methodology demonstrated differences at the genus level and encourages the recording of additional species and the use of wingbeat frequency as an identification tool for these flies.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Medical, Molecular and Forensic Sciences
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2022 by the authors
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