The Brachycera is a well-corroborated monophyletic group (Yeates & Wiegmann
1999), which is often treated as a suborder within the two-winged insects (Diptera).
Together with the Nematocera, Brachycera increase in the relative proportion
of the insect fauna at increasing altitude as well as at higher latitudes, whether
counting the number of species or the number of individuals, and Diptera are
the dominating insect group in high montane, subarctic, and arctic environments.
Brachycera are ecologically very diverse (Hövemyer 2000). Many of the
'lower brachycerans' are predatory in the larval stage, with the parasitic Bombyliidae,
Acroceridae and Nemestrinidae as significant exceptions. The Empidoidea includes
a large assemblage of species where both adults and larvae are active predators.
Many lineages within the species-rich Cyclorrhapha have adapted to a saprophagous
life, but also parasitism has evolved numerous times, e.g., millipede parasitising
Phaeomyiidae; insect parasitising Pipunculidae, Pyrgotidae, Cryptochetidae,
Tachinidae and Rhinophoridae; mammal parasitising Oestridae; and plant parasitising
Agromyzidae, Tephritidae, Chloropidae (in part), Scathophagidae (in part), and
Anthomyiidae (in part). The Phoridae present a remarkable diversity of life
habits, ranging from extreme specialisations like ladybird-parasitising species
of Phalacrotocera to the 'omnivorous' Megaselia scalaris, which
has been bred from an astonishingly broad range of organic materials even including
shoe polish and paint (Disney 1994). The Syrphidae are well known for their
multitude of larval life forms, and some of the more classic examples include
rat-tails living in putrid water, free-living aphid predators, bulb miners,
and inquilines and scavengers in nests of ants, bees, and social wasps (Thompson
& Rotheray 2000).
Brachyceran flies contain several important agricultural pests, like cabbage
flies (Delia spp., Anthomyiidae), shoot flies (Atherigona spp.,
Muscidae), frit flies (Oscinella frit, Chloropidae), and fruit flies
(Tephritidae); others are blood-sucking, like the horn fly (Haematobia irritans,
Muscidae) and the stable fly (Muscina stabulans, Muscidae); or vectors
of various diseases like the bovine filariasis transmitted by some species of
Musca (Krafsur & Moon 1997, Butler & Hogsette 2001). Flies may
be a nuisance when occurring in vast numbers around landfills, garbage dumps,
or dung-heaps (Howard 2001). Particularly remarkable cases of mass occurrences
are given by the chloropid fly Thaumatomyia notata, specimens of which,
possibly guided by a species-specific male pheromone, seek suitable places for
overwintering and in extreme cases may enter buildings in such numbers that
they darken the ceilings and create bucket-loads of dead bodies when they die
in the dry indoor climate (Nartshuk 2000). On the beneficial side, many Brachycera
are efficient decomposers and play an important role in cleaning sewage and
recycling organic waste (McLean 2000); some hover flies (Syrphidae) and grass
flies (Chloropidae) are predators on pest aphids (Thompson & Rotheray 2000,
Ismay & Nartshuk 2000); and blow flies (Calliphoridae) may serve as forensic
indicators (Catts & Goff 1992, Byrd & Castner 2000) and even improve
human health through the treatment of complicated wounds (Sherman 2001, 2002,
2003). Drosophila melanogaster has become the archetype of a geneticists
laboratory animal, and the multitude of genetic studies performed on this species
has had a profound impact on our understanding of gene expression, gene regulatory
mechanisms, mutations, etc.
With some 12,000 species of Brachycera and 7000 species of Nematocera listed
for Europe, the knowledge of the taxonomic composition of the European Diptera
fauna is far better than for any other major region. Europe currently has more
named species than each of the Afrotropical region, the Oriental region, and
the Australasian region, each of which has some 16-17000 named species. This,
however, is certainly due to historical circumstances, with Europe having a
much longer taxonomic tradition and with relatively more funding being available
to the European taxasphere. The number of species added to the European Diptera
fauna is remarkably constant over time, and the species accumulation curve shows
to date no signs of levelling off (Pape, unpubl.). Among the Brachycera, the
most species rich families in the European fauna are the Agromyzidae, Tachinidae,
Syrphidae, Empididae and Dolichopodidae. Much remains to be discovered, and
especially the Phoridae stands out as potentially vastly more diverse than suggested
by its current count.
Many Brachycera are saproxylic and may have considerable potential as indicators
of woodland quality (Speight 1986). Indicator species of old-growth forests
are usually rare, but our knowledge on Diptera is in general too sparse to allow
reliable assessments of the conservation status of particular species. Such
evaluations are desirable for long-term management plans, and we are seeing
still more species of Diptera finding their way into regional 'red lists', e.g.
Falk (1991), Stark (1996), Binot et al. (1998), Pollet (2000). One European
fly species is now considered extinct: Thyreophora cynophila (Piophilidae:
Thyreophorinae), which around 1800 may have been frequently encountered, often
in the early spring, on larger carrion like dead dogs, mules, and horses (Séguy
1950). The disappearance of this morphologically quite conspicuous species may
be due to changes in livestock management and improved carrion disposal following
the Industrial Revolution in Europe. Seen on a longer time scale, however, it
is likely to be a European example of an extinction caused by the impoverishment
of the megafauna - no large predators to leave large carcasses with partly crushed
long bones exposing their medullar canal and bone marrow, which may have been
the favoured breeding site for T. cynophila.
The Fauna Europaea checklist would not have reached its current level of completion
without the input from several Associate Specialists. While the formal responsibility
of collating and delivering the data for relevant families has resided with
the appointed Taxonomic Specialist, the Associate Specialists deserve full credit
for their important contributions:
Tachinidae: Bystrowski, C., Instytut Badawczy Lesnictwa, Raszyn Bergström, C., Uppsala Cerretti, P., Università di Roma Hubenov, Z., Institute of Zoology, Sofia Raper, C., Reading Richter, V.A., Zoological Institute, St. Petersburg Van de Weyer, G., Reet, Vanhara, J., Masaryk University, Brno Zeegers, T., Soest Ziegler, J., Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
Many people have generously shared their expertise and contributed to the checklist
by supplying miscellaneous taxonomic and/or faunistic data to one or more of
the taxonomic specialists. This input is highly appreciated, and the contributors
are here listed in alphabetical order: S. Andersen (Copenhagen), H. Andersson
(Lund), M. Báez (La Laguna), V. Beschovski (Sofia), R.M. Blackith (Dublin),
Javier Blasco-Zumeta (Zaragoza), R. Contreras-Lichtenberg (Vienna), R. Danielsson
(Lund), M. Dempewolf (Amsterdam), J.A. Dils (Hoevenen), R.H.L. Disney (Cambridge),
A. Draber-Monko (Warszaw), P. Dyte (Datchet), M. Földvari (Budapest), A.
Freidberg (Tel Aviv), P. Gatt (Rabat), D. González-Mora (Madrid), I.
Grichanov (St Petersburg), P. Grootaert (Brussels), M. Hall (London), B. Herting
(Stuttgart), J. Ismay (Oxford), T. Jonassen (Sjernaroy), C. Kehlmaier (Stuttgart),
I. MacGowan (Battleby), H. Meuffels (Vilt), H. Meyer (Kiel), B. Mocek (Hradec
Králové), J.E. O'Hara (Ottawa), J. Olejnicek (Ceské Budejovice),
L. Papp (Budapest), C. Parvu (Bucharest), R. Richet (Boulogne-sur-mer), A.I.
Shatalkin (Moscow), L.E.N. Sijstermans (Amsterdam), J. Skevington (Ottawa),
A. Stark (Halle/Saale), K. Szpila (Torun), A.G.B. Thomas (Toulouse), M. Vandenbosch
(Tervuren), D. Ventura Peréz (Barcelona), Yu.G. Verves (Kiev).
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distribution. Waste Management and Research 19: 308-313.
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Sherman, R.A. 2002. Maggot vs conservative debridement therapy for the treatment
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Fauna Europaea was supported by the European Commission under the Fifth Framework Programme
and contributed to the Support for Research Infrastructures work programme with Thematic Priority Biodiversity.