Big Baby, Little Mother: Tsetse Flies Are Exceptions to the Juvenile Small Size Principle

Haines, Lee Rafuse ; Barreaux, Antoine ; Ellstrand, Norman ; Vale, Glyn A (2020-11)


While across the animal kingdom offspring are born smaller than their parents, notable exceptions exist. Several dipteran species belonging to the Hippoboscoidea superfamily can produce offspring larger than themselves. In this essay, the blood-feeding tsetse is focused on. It is suggested that the extreme reproductive strategy of this fly is enabled by feeding solely on highly nutritious blood, and producing larval offspring that are soft and malleable. This immense reproductive expenditure may have evolved to avoid competition with other biting flies. Tsetse also transmit blood-borne parasites that cause the fatal diseases called African trypanosomiases. It is discussed how tsetse life history and reproductive strategy profoundly influence the type of vector control interventions used to reduce fly populations. In closing, it is argued that the unusual life history of tsetse warrants their preservation in the areas where human and animal health is not threatened.

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