a1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol, Woodland Road, Bristol, BS8 1UG, UK
The seasonal abundance and reproductive output of two common, but little studied, dung-breeding flies, Neomyia cornicina and N. viridescens, were examined in artificial cow pats in pastures in southwest England in 2001 and 2004. In 2001, the numbers of both Neomyia species increased slowly over summer to show a sharp seasonal peak in late August and early September. There was no significant effect of mean temperature, mean relative humidity or dung water content on abundance or seasonally de-trended abundance. High levels of aggregation were seen between pats and, when present, greater numbers of N. cornicina emerged than N. viridescens. Neomyia cornicina was present in 13% of 240 artificial standardized pats put out in 2001, at a median of 19 adults per colonized pat; N. viridescens was present in 8% of artificial pats at a median of three adults per colonized pat. In 2004, N. cornicina emerged from 46% of the 94 artificial pats put out at a median of three adults per colonized pat, while N. viridescens emerged from only 12% of pats at a median of one adult per colonized pat. Flies were also collected in 2004, using sticky-traps and hand nets. Again, free-flying N. cornicina appeared to be more abundant in the field than N. viridescens; 162 N. cornicina were caught compared to 44 N. viridescens over the same sampling period. The size of each adult female was recorded and ovarian dissection was used to determine the numbers of eggs matured. Female N. viridescens were significantly larger than the N. cornicina and matured significantly higher numbers of eggs. Gravid N. viridescens matured a mean of 37.1 (±16.9) eggs, whereas gravid N. cornicina matured a mean of 28.8 (±13.2) eggs. The reasons why the larger, more fecund, N. viridescens adults are less abundant in the field or emerging from pats than N. cornicina are unknown. Further work is required to identify the nature and cause of the mortality experienced by the larvae of these species and the ecological differences and functional specialisation which allows co-existence to be maintained.
(Accepted October 24 2007)
(Online publication February 25 2008)