What is re­verse meta­mor­pho­sis?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q & A -

The stan­dard pro­gres­sion of in­sects from egg, through feed­ing and grow­ing larva, meta­mor­phos­ing chrysalis, and finally to fully winged adult, is not quite uni­ver­sal. Bat­flies (genus As­codipteron; fam­ily Stre­bl­i­dae) have taken this fur­ther – or back­wards, depend­ing on your point of view. When a fe­male bat­fly emerges from her pupa on the floor of a bat roost in a cave or hol­low tree, she mates and flies up to lo­cate a host. She then sheds her wings, bur­rows un­der the bat’s skin and starts to re­vert to a mag­got-like form, los­ing much of the ob­vi­ous head-tho­rax-ab­domen seg­men­ta­tion seen in most adult in­sects. She feeds on bat blood, nour­ish­ing a sin­gle larva in­side her ab­domen, in a body cav­ity anal­o­gous to a womb. When the larva is fully grown, it is re­leased, drops to the roost floor and pu­pates. Un­like most other in­sect lar­vae it does not feed or grow in­de­pen­dently.

This is an ex­treme ret­ro­gres­sion, but sev­eral other blood-suck­ing flies also lose their wings when they start liv­ing in their host’s fur, and queen ants fa­mously shed their wings after a mat­ing flight so they can found a new colony un­der­ground. Richard Jones

Not quite re­verse meta­mor­pho­sis, but a queen ant (here a car­pen­ter) will shed her wings for a sub­ter­ranean life.

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