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Platystomatidae (Signal flies)

Platystomatidae (Signal flies) is a distinctive family of flies (Diptera), worldwide in distribution predominating in the tropics. It is one of the larger families of acalyptrate Diptera with around 1200 species in 119 genera.

Signal flies are very variable in external appearance, ranging from small (2.5 mm), slender species to large (20 mm), robust individuals, often with body colours having a distinctive metallic luster and with face and wings usually patterned with dark spots or bands.

Many bizarre forms of morphology occur in this family. Heads and legs (fore legs especially) may be oddly shaped, extended in various ways or with adornments, all of which serve to supplement agonistic behaviour. Such behaviour underlies social and sexual interaction between individuals of the same species of Signal flies.

Adults are frequently found on tree trunks and foliage and are attracted to flowers, decaying fruit, excrement, sweat, and decomposing snails. Larvae are found on fresh and in decaying vegetation, carrion, human corpses, and root nodules. Most larvae are either phytophagous (eating plant material) or saprophagous (eating decomposing organic matter). Some are predatory on other insects and others have been found in human lesions, while others are of minor agricultural significance.

The species of this family are frequently mixed with unsorted specimens of higher Tephritoidea: Tephritidae, Ulidiidae and Pyrgotidae - see the diagnosis for full details.

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