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Photo#764012
CA Hanging Fly 2 - Bittacus chlorostigma - male

CA Hanging Fly 2 - Bittacus chlorostigma - Male
San Joaquin River Gorge, BLM Recreational Area, Fresno County, California, USA
April 21, 2013
Many of these were easily flushed from partially shaded grassy areas in a woodland of Blue Oak (Quercus douglasii) and Gray Pine (Pinus sabiniana) in the gorge of the San Joaquin River, at about 500' elevation in the western Sierra foothills. From a few yards away they look like crane-flies, and they fly like them too...fluttering warily from grass stalk to grass stalk, or seeking refuge in the foliage of shrubs. But a closer view reveals four wings (not two, as in Diptera).

Bittacus typically hang from vegetation by their front legs, as seen here. They have a single, long, raptorial claw on their hind-legs which they use to catch prey.

I think this is a male, as it appears to have epiandrial lobes (or "claspers") at the tip of the abdomen, as seen in the image at bottom of this Cal. Acad. of Science page, and in the full-size image of Jeffrey Cole's post(1). [Note: The full-size version of my image above can be seen by clicking this link...and then clicking the image once more after it loads.]

The order Mecoptera is an ancient group dating back to the Permian (250 million years ago). According to Grimaldi & Engel(2) they were very abundant and diverse from the late Permian to Jurassic but their numbers had waned by the Cretaceous. In our time they are a relatively small, but fascinating, order.

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CA Hanging Fly 2 - Bittacus chlorostigma - male CA Hanging Fly 2 - Bittacus chlorostigma - male CA Hanging Fly 2 - Bittacus chlorostigma - male