The rather unattractive specimen above is known as Mormotomyia hirsute, or as the ultra-rare Terrible Hairy Fly.
Scientists in Kenya have just rediscovered the hirsute insect in its only known habitat – the Uzaki Hill, a 20m high cliff just to the east of Nairobi.
The Terrible Hairy Fly is about 1cm long, and is actually unable to fly, having non-functional wings that resemble miniature belt-straps. It is apparently partial to breeding in bat faeces.
It is the first known sighting of the fly since 1948. The fly was found by Dr Robert Copeland and Dr Ashley Kirk-Spriggs from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).
“The rediscovery of the species, which has been collected on only two occasions before, in 1933 and 1948, has caused excitement in insect museums world-wide,” they said in a statement.
The scientists are said to be unsure exactly how the Terrible Hairy Fly fits into the evolutionary process. It has no way of moving from its habitat, and seems to exist only in the one bat cave.
The Terrible Hairy Fly was first described by English entomologist Ernest Edward Austen, who is also known for his 1906 work, ‘Illustrations of British Blood-Sucking Flies’.
Dr Copeland is enthusiastic about his discovery, believing that the area of its habitat should now be declared a national heritage area and given suitable conservation protection.
Mormotomyia hirsute may not be the most beautiful of insects, but I just can’t quite work out what’s so terrible about it.