Evolutionary Biology Lab

Evolution & Ecology Research Centre and School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales



Neriidae is a small family of true flies (Diptera) with long, stilt-like legs. Most species are found in the tropics. Neriids have very interesting behaviours, and many species are strikingly sexually dimorphic, with males having much longer legs, heads and/or antennae than females. Neriid larvae have the ability to leap during the stage just before pupation when they migrate from the larval feeding substrate to the pupation site. Very little research has been done on this interesting group of flies.

Two neriid species are known in Australia:

Telostylinus angusticollis (also known as Derocephalus angusticollis) is native to NSW and southern Queensland. These large flies (up to 2 cm in length) aggregate and breed on rotting trunks of Acacia longifolia and other trees. We are using these flies in research on diet, ageing, developmental plasticity, and non-genetic inheritance.


Telostylinus angusticollis female.

Telostylinus angusticollis male.


Neriid males jostling for position over an egg-laying female



Males appear to assess each other by elevating their bodies and rotating and interlocking their antennae.



Neriid males engage in spectacular battles for territories near egg-laying sites



Males attempt to get their opponent in a head-lock using their forelegs (which are armed with spines)



Males also strike their opponents with their forelegs, antennae and "chest"



While mating, the male typically encloses the female within the span of his legs



A female (right) lays eggs while her mate fights off a rival male



VIDEOS:    Neriids mating          Sex & Death

T. angusticollis individuals that are reared on a nutrient-poor larval diet develop into adults with little or no sexual dimorphism in body size or shape. In contrast, when provided with abundant nutrients as larvae, males develop into adults with extremely elongated legs, head and antennae. The four flies pictured below are full-siblings (males on the left, females on the right) that were reared on nutrient-rich (top) or nutrient-poor (bottom) larval diets.


Telostylinus lineolatus inhabits tropical north Queensland, where it aggregates on flowers and rotting fruit. T. lineolatus also occurs on many Pacific islands. These flies are smaller, less developmentally plastic and less sexually dimorphic than T. angusticollis.


North Queensland rainforest

Telostylinus lineolatus

Telostylinus lineolatus

Telostylinus lineolatus
Telostylinus lineolatus breeds on rotting fruit and dense flowers in tropical north Queensland.

The Australian neriids can be reared in the lab on an artificial medium consisting of molasses, malt and soy protein mixed with hydrated 'cocopeat' (shavings from coconut husks). They have a generation time of about 30 days at 26 C.


A bibliography of the Neriidae can be found here.