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The Mormotomyiidae is a family of Diptera (flies) that contains just one species, the cave-dwelling, flightless Mormotomyia hirsute, first collected in 1933 in Eastern Kenya.  It has been found only on three occasions, and only at its type location, a cave-like cleft in a large boulder at the top of Ukasi Hill North East of Nairobi.  This species is considered the rarest fly in the world. 

Family Mormotomyiidae is one of only two fly families solely endemic throughout its paleontological and more recent history to tropical Africa (the other family being the Marginidae).  It is highly unusual in appearance, with elongated legs covered by hairlike setae, reduced, non-functional wings, and reduced eyes.  The relationship of family Mormotomyiidae to other dipteran families has long fascinated dipteran systematists, but its interpretation remains a subject of controversy.  It has been included in diverse higher-level groupings including Alcalyptratae, Calyptratae, and Tephritoinea.  The most recent morphological analyses, which included scanning electron microscopy of larval-, pupal- and adult-stage characters, tentatively support its placement in superfamily Ephrydoiea.  The first molecular phylogenetic studies, carried out in Brian Weigmann’s lab (North Carolina State University) using specimens collected in 2010, will test this hypothesis (Weigmann et al. in prep., cited in Kirk-Spriggs et al. 2011).

(Kirk-Spriggs et al. 2011; Copeland et al. 2011).

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© Dana Campbell

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