Introduction: The Australasian Therevidae

Stiletto-flies (family Therevidae) are found in a variety of habitats ranging from rainforest to desert, but are generally most diverse in arid regions where the sandy, friable soils provide a suitable habitat for their fossorial (soil dwelling) larvae. Adults are nectar feeders, while the larvae are voracious predators of soil arthropods. Larvae are characterised by a secondarily segmented abdomen and an apically spatulate tentorial rod (Irwin & Lyneborg 1981). Larvae can be found in almost all types of terrestrial habitats but are especially diverse where sandy soils are dominant (e.g. dry forests, coastal dunes and deserts). [see Biology & Ecology]

The Australasian therevid fauna is represented by two of the three currently recognised subfamilies: Therevinae and Agapophytinae. Therevinae are a diverse, cosmopolitan group of therevids represented in Australasia by Anabarhynchus Macquart, Megathereva Lyneborg and Irwiniella Lyneborg (Irwin & Lyneborg 1981, Lyneborg 1992, 2001). While the number of therevine genera in the region is low, the genus Anabarhynchus alone is easily the most species rich (> 200 spp.) therevid genus in the world. Agapophytinae comprise ten genera of brightly coloured flies endemic to Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (Winterton et al. 2001). A third informal grouping closely related to the agapophytines, the Taenogera genus-group, are very diverse in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, with representatives also in New Caledonia and the Neotropics (Winterton et al. 1999b, Metz et al. 2003). While being found in all other biogeographical regions, the subfamily Phycinae is not represented in Australasia. [see Systematics]

The Australasian therevid fauna has largely been understudied except for a flurry of activity between 1912 and 1933 by various authors in Australia and Europe. Recently, intensive study of world Therevidae by a team of investigators supported by a National Science Foundation (PEET) and Schlinger Foundation funded project (headed by Dr Michael Irwin) has lead to another burst of activity of taxonomic research into Therevidae, including the Australasian therevid fauna. At least one dozen papers have been published on Australasian Therevidae in the last five years, easily doubling the number of described genera and species [see Checklist & Bibliography]. Many more undescribed taxa still remain in collections, and these will be described soon. This interactive key to genera of Australasian Therevidae is a summary of our current knowledge of the stiletto-flies of the region and is designed to provide a rapid means of identifying Australasian therevids to genera. The key will be updated as more genera and species are described and more detailed subkeys to individual genera will be added so that ultimately the key will be to species of Australasian Therevidae.

Lucid key to Australasian Therevidae: An identification aid to the genera. Lucid is an interactive key utilising multi-media such as drawings and photographs to identify specimens of therevids from Australasia. This key contains not only a means to identify adults of the 24 described and 5 undescribed genera of therevids in Australasia, but the 'Austherevid' website also contains a wealth of supplemental information including: fact sheets, image galleries, bibliography, checklist of valid species names, glossary of adult morphology, as well as information on Australasian therevid systematics, biology, ecology and collecting methods.


System requirements for running Lucid3 interactive key:

Software: Lucid3 Applet player (More information), requires Java Runtime Environment (Download)
Operating System: Windows 98/ME/NT/2000/XP/2003, MacOSX, Linux, Solaris
System Memory: 32MB RAM (64MB or greater recommended)
Web browser: Java enabled web browser such as Internet Explorer, Safari or Firefox.

Unlike previous versions of Lucid, you do not require the dowload of Lucid player software to run the key. This version will run embedded within a web-browser running an updated version of Java. Click the links above to start using the key in Lucid3 and for various aspects of therevid biology, classification, systematics, etc.

[Note for Mac users: As Microsoft no longer supports Internet Explorer (IE) for Mac, open the key in Safari or Firefox for excellent results. PC user's running IE should not experience any problems opening the key.]


How do I know if I have a Stiletto-fly?

This Lucid key is designed to be used for identifying adult Stiletto-flies from the Australasian region. It is important to first determine if you indeed have a therevid before proceeding to make an identification. There are several characteristics used by taxonomists to identify a therevid from other families of Diptera. If you have any doubts whether you have a therevid, answer the questions listed on the "Do you have a therevid" page.


Which therevids are included in this key?

Therevids are found on all continents except Antarctica. This interactive key to Stiletto-flies of the Australasian region is the first stage towards an online key to the Stiletto-flies of the world. Later keys will include other regions and species level subkeys to individual genera. The Australasian region is a geographical region encompassing Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and far eastern Indonesian Archipelago. Fiji and the Solomon Islands are often included in the Oceania region. Map


What is Lucid3?

Lucid3 is an interactive key that can be run in an internet browser on any platform (Mac, PC, etc.). Lucid is produced by the Centre for Biological Information Transfer (CBIT) at the University of Queensland, Australia. Visit the Lucidcentral website for more information on Lucid3.


Copyright and content use

All images and content in this key are protected by copyright. Click the copyright symbol at the bottom of the page for further information.


About the authors

Drs Shaun Winterton, Jeff Skevington and Chris Lambkin have traveled extensively throughout Australia and Papua New Guinea collecting and studying Australasian flies with an emphasis on Therevidae. This work is a distillation of their research to date on Australasian Stiletto-flies into an easy to use online interactive identification aid for anyone wishing to identify therevids in their possession.

Dr Shaun L. Winterton: Shaun is an Associate Insect Biosystematist with the California Department of Food & Agriculture, Plant Pest Diagnostics Branch. His Postgraduate Diploma and Doctoral theses were on Australasian Therevidae systematics and evolution, undertaken at the University of Queensland as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET) grant entitled "Monograph of the Stiletto Flies of the World" (NSF DEB-99-77958) awarded to Mike Irwin. Shaun has published extensively on Therevidae systematics and morphology, including descriptions of a new subfamily, seven new genera and 69 new species. He is currently revising the Agapophytinae genera in the species-rich Parapsilocephala clade.



Dr Jeffrey Skevington: Jeff is a Research Scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, conducting research in the Canadian National Collection of Insects, Arachnids and Nematodes. He completed his M.Sc. on New World Pipunculus (Pipunculidae) at the University of Guelph. His Ph.D. took him to the University of Queensland where his focus on Australasian Eudorylini (Pipunculidae) was disrupted regularly by the impressive therevid diversity of the region. Jeff’s publication history has a clear focus on Pipunculidae but he has published on Australian Bonjeania and continues to enjoy diversions that allow him to study Australasian therevids.


Dr Christine L. Lambkin: Shortly after completing a PhD at the University of Queensland in 2001, Chris joined CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Australian National Insect Collection. Chris' undergraduate and doctoral theses work comprised detailed phylogenetic revisions of anthracine and exoprosopine bee-fly genera (Diptera: Bombyliidae). While at CSIRO Chris is undertaking phylogenetic studies on Australian stiletto-fly genera such as Ectinorhynchus and allies. Chris' research is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) Partnerships Enhancing Expertise in Taxonomy (PEET) grant entitled "Monograph of the Stiletto Flies of the World" (NSF DEB-99-77958) awarded to Mike Irwin. Chris spends a great deal of her time in the field, in remote locations in Australia, using Hocks and Sharkey Malaise traps to collect therevids. Chris is interested in using the material trapped to calculate biodiversity estimates for environmental comparisons, especially the effects of fire on insect diversity.