Evolutionary Biology Lab

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


NERIIDAE: The stilt-legged flies of Australia

Neriidae is a relatively 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. Like piophilid flies, 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.


Telostylinus angusticollis

Telostylinus angusticollis

Telostylinus angusticollis female.

Telostylinus angusticollis male.


VIDEOS:   Neriids mating          Sex & Death


Two neriid species are known in Australia:

Telostylinus angusticollis is native to NSW and south Queensland. These large flies (up to 2 cm in length) aggregate and breed on rotting trunks of Acacia longifolia.

Acacia longifolia Telostylinus angusticollis Telostylinus angusticollis
Telostylinus angusticollis aggregate on rotting Acacia trunks. Males vary enormously in body size and shape. Females feed on resin, and oviposit into the bark.


T. angusticollis is a particularly fascinating system for research on environmental effects on body size and shape (i.e., phenotypic plasticity and condition dependence). Flies reared on low-quality larval medium exhibit little or no sexual dimorphism in body size or shape, whereas males reared on rich larval medium exhibit extreme elongation of legs, head and antennae relative to females. The four flies pictured below are full-siblings (males on the left, females on the right) that were reared on larval diets of varying quality.

Telostylinus angusticollis



Telostylinus lineolatus inhabits tropical north Queensland, where it aggregates on flowers and rotting fruit. These flies are much smaller than T. angusticollis, and much less sexually dimorphic, particularly in head shape.


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

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). The have a generation time of about 30 days at 26 C.


A bibliography of the Neriidae can be found here.