The analysis of morphological characters for FLYTREE was completed by the international team of Lambkin, Sinclair, Pape, Courtney, Skevington, Meier, Yeates, Borkent, and Blagoderov. A primary obstacle in coding characters across the entire order Diptera was the issue of homology. We were initially guided by two major historical works that proposed dipteran relationships based on studies of morphological character systems, Hennig (1973) and the Manual of Nearctic Diptera (McAlpine, 1989; Wood & Borkent, 1989; Woodley, 1989). We also considered morphological studies using quantitative phylogenetic methods examining relationships among the lower or nematocerous families (e.g. Oosterbroek & Courtney, 1995; Saether, 2000; Sinclair et al., 2007), lower Brachycera (e.g. Yeates, 2002), Empidoidea (e.g. Wiegmann et al., 1993; Sinclair & Cumming, 2006), acalyptrates (e.g. Buck, 2006), and calyptrates (e.g. Pape, 1992; Rognes, 1997). From these numerous studies we established a comprehensive list of 371 external and internal morphological characters for larvae (93), pupae (11), and adults (267, including 55 head, 54 wing, 31 female genitalia, 49 male genitalia). Characters cover the anatomical diversity of ALL fly families, and five holometabolous outgroups.

Interactive Anatomical Atlas of Flies

One of the most exciting new tools illustrating the external morphology of flies has debuted at CSIRO in Canberra Australia. Sponsored by the Australian Biological Research Study (ABRS) as part of its funding for an interactive key to the fly families of Australia, this self-guided tour provides an illustrated glossary and unique look at the transformational homologies (how the same structure changes) among four diverse groups of flies.

This tool requires a Flash plug-in for your browser and broadband access is required. Go to the Anatomical Atlas of Flies.

Fly Morphology Comes to MorphBank!

Images from the FLYTREE project are now being posted on MorphBank, a partner with NSF Assembling the Tree of Life projects. The first species is a fly from the family Therevidae, Acrosathe novellaor see the accumulating submissions


Buck, M. (2006) A new family and genus of acalyptrate flies from the Neotropical region, with a phylogenetic analysis of Carnoidea family relationships (Diptera, Schizophora). Systematic Entomology31, 377-404.

Hennig, W. (1973) Diptera (Zweiflügler). Handbuch der Zoologie. IV Band. 2 Hälfte: Insecta. 2 Teil: Spezielles. 31  (ed. by J.-G. Helmcke, Starck, D, Wermuth, H.), pp.  337  (English translation obtained from Feb.2009).  Walter De Gruyter: Berlin.

McAlpine, J. (1989) Phylogeny and classification of the Muscomorpha. Manual of Nearctic Diptera  (ed. by J. F. McAlpine.), pp.  1397-1581.  Canadian Government Publishing Centre.  Research Branch Agriculture Canada Monograph No. 32: Hull.

Oosterbroek, P. & Courtney, G. (1995) Phylogeny of the nematocerous families of Diptera (Insecta).Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society115, 267-311.

Pape, T. (1992) Phylogeny of the Tachinidae family-group (Diptera: Calyptratae). Tijdschrift voor Entomologie135, 43-86.

Rognes, K. (1997) The Calliphoridae (blowflies) (Diptera: Oestroidea) are not a monophyletic group.Cladistics13, 27-66.

Saether, O. (2000) Phylogeny of Culicomorpha (Diptera). Systematic Entomology25, 223-234.

Sinclair, B.J. & Cumming, J.M. (2006) The morphology, higher-level phylogeny and classification of the Empidoidea (Diptera). Zootaxa1180, 1–172.

Sinclair, B.J., Borkent, A. & Wood, A.W. (2007) The male genital tract and aedeagal components of the Diptera with a discussion of their phylogenetic significance. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society15, 711-742.

Wiegmann, B.M., Mitter, C. & Thompson, F.C. (1993) Evolutionary Origin of the Cyclorrhapha (Diptera): tests of alternative morphological hypotheses. Cladistics9, 41-81.

Wood, D.M. & Borkent, A. (1989) Phylogeny and classification of the Nematocera. Manual of Nearctic Diptera  (ed. by J. McAlpine.), pp.  1333-1370.  Canadian Government Publishing Centre.  Research Branch Agriculture Canada Monograph No. 32: Hull.

Woodley, N. (1989) Phylogeny and classification of the “Orthorrhaphous” Brachycera. Manual of Nearctic Diptera  (ed. by J. F. McAlpine.), pp.  1371-1395.  Research Branch Agriculture Monograph No. 32.  Canadian Government Publishing Centre: Hull.

Yeates, D. (2002) Relationships of the lower Brachycera (Diptera): a quantitative synthesis of morphological characters. Zoologica Scripta31, 105-121.