Fly With Bizarre Wing Markings, 'Three-In-One Insect,' Has Scientists Scratching Their Heads (PHOTO)

11/12/2013 09:26 am ET | Updated Nov 13, 2013

One tiny fly -- and its so-called "wing men" -- have caused a big buzz in the blogosphere.

What is this bizarre fruit fly with wing markings that look remarkably like...more bugs? Goniurellia tridens is a member of the Tephritidae fly family, known as "peacock flies" for their colorful wing patterns. G. tridens was first identified in 1910 by an Austrian entomologist, Friedrich Georg Handel, and spotted in the United Arab Emirates by Dr. Brigitte Howarth, an ecologist and fly specialist at the UAE's Zayed University.

Howarth believes G. tridens' markings may play a role in courtship, making the fruit flies appear more attractive as they show off to each other, The National reported.

Others believe the insect-like patterns on the wings may help scare off would-be predators, like spiders.

"The spider mistakes the black 'legs' on the wings for another spider and instead of killing and eating the fly, as it normally would, it dances to the fake spider," Dr. Mark W. Moffett, a biologist and photographer for National Geographic known as "Dr. Bugs," told The Huffington Post in an email. "This alerts the fly, which can escape."

Yet other scientists have taken a more skeptical stance.

"Much like how we see sharks in the clouds or Jesus in our toast (a psychological phenomenon called Pareidolia), I think we’ve become so conditioned to expect ornate patterns on wings to be mimicking something else that we’re forcing objects to appear everywhere, even if there’s no evolutionary or behavioural explanation for it," entomologist Morgan D. Jackson wrote in his blog, "Biodiversity In Focus."

Whether the markings are a product of evolution, or a fluke of nature, those are still some "fly" tats!

[h/t New York Times]

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