Speculation over insect photo shows human bias in interpreting nature

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(Credit: Peter Roosenschoon, via Twitter.)

If you look closely at the photo on the right, the wings on the fly have very distinctive patterns that look almost like ants. Since the photo was posted to Twitter a few days ago, it has been making the rounds on a number of websites, including the New York Times Dot Earth BlogWhy Evolution is True and It’s Okay To Be Smart.

The photo had many speculating that scientists had created some sort of insect hybrid that was part fly, part ant and part spider. After all, in the age of synthetic biology, it isn’t that far-fetched. However, the fly’s wing patterns are actually quite common and represent perhaps a kind of wishful thinking of where people expect or want science to be in the 21st century.

“It’s easy to think that species in far away places like the Middle East and Africa have special, exotic adaptations, but in fact we have equally cool species in our own backyards,” writes entomology graduate student Morgan D. Jackson. “If you look closely at some of the species nearby, you can see this general wing pattern is conserved in other tephritine genera, like Trupaneaand Euarestoides, just without the darker ‘eyespot.'”

Read the full, original story here: Ants, spiders, or wishful thinking?

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