Welcome! If you are looking for a chance to contribute to scientific research, you have
come to the right place. I study biological diversity. For over 25 years I have worked in
tropical rain forests and studied the interdependence of plants and animals. In
particular, I pay attention to "Rainforest Cucumbers," which are beautiful vines
with bright orange, red, and yellow flowers. I kept track of
all the animals that either helped the plant make seeds (the plants babies) or
killed the seeds. In the process, I noticed that the flowers and seeds sometimes had
little "worms" in them. The "worms" turned into beautiful flies with
spotted wings. I wanted to know their scientific name, but was surprised to find out that
they didnt have a name.
I was even MORE surprised when I discovered that the flies (that all looked the same to
me) werent all the same kind of fly. A scientist at the Smithsonian Institution said
they looked like THREE kinds of flies to him. No way! At first I didnt believe him.
Then I looked at my field notes and discovered that each kind of fly ate a different part
of the vine. One kind ate only male flowers. Another ate only female flowers. The third
eats only seeds. Why? Why should flies care if they eat male flowers or female flowers? I
dont know, but I want to find out. But to do that, I have to be able to tell the
flies apart. Children in schools near Washington DC and Baltimore helped me and those kids
discovered some wonderful ways to identify those three kinds of flies. We named one
species "Blepharoneura manchesteri" after Manchester Elementary School
where students figured out how to tell that fly apart from the others.
Since I discovered those three flies, I have discovered MANY more species. Some species
eat other kinds of Rainforest Cucumbers. Others eat plants that are related to Rainforest
Cucumbers. Why are there so many kinds of these flies? I want to knowbut now I have
to figure out how to tell apart not just three kinds of flies, but more than 20 new
species of fly! (So I am going to need a lot of help!)
Here you will find pictures of wings of FOUR new species of flies from Costa Rica. All
of them eat flowers of one kind of Rainforest Cucumber (called Gurania costaricensis).
Because these flies do not yet have scientific names, I call them "Clubs,"
"Spades," "Hearts," and "Diamonds." (Their first name will
be Blepharoneura, but we will have to invent their second name!) Hearts and
Diamonds (the red suits) are flies that eat female flowers. Hearts and Diamonds hardly
ever live in the same place. Clubs and Spades eat male flowers and hardly ever live in the
same place. Clubs live in the same place as Hearts (near the top of a small mountain), and
Spades and Diamonds live in the same place (near the bottom of the same small mountain).
Why? I want to know!!! But to find out, I have to be able to look at a fly and tell
whether it is a Heart or a Club or a Diamond or a Spade. Some of you read an article in The
Dolphin Log and found differences among the four flies. (Fly A is a Club. Fly B is a
Spade. Fly C is a Diamond, and Fly D is a Heart.) Now we have to figure out whether we can
use the differences you found to tell whether a fly is a Heart or a Diamond (or a Club or
a Spade)! Let me know what you find! I hope you will also share your discoveries with
others so we can work together to solve this puzzle!
Department of Biology
600 First Street West
Mount Vernon, Iowa 52314