The first complete 3D reconstruction of a Spanish fly primary larva (Lytta vesicatoria, Meloidae, Coleoptera)

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52511. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052511. Epub 2012 Dec 26.


The first detailed anatomical study of a primary larva of Meloidae is presented. Thereby techniques such as three-dimensional reconstructions, microtome sections, SEM (scanning electronic microscopy) and CLSM (confocal laser scanning microscopy) are applied. The structural features are discussed in the context of phylogeny, but also possible correlations with parasitism, phoresy and miniaturisation. The triungulin first instar larva is likely an apomorphy of Meloidae excl. Eleticinae and linked with a specialisation on acridoid eggs or larvae and provisions of bees. The campodeid body shape of Lytta and Meloinae is a groundplan feature of Meloidae, whereas a navicular body is an autapomorphy of the generally phoretic larvae of Nemognathinae. Head structures of Lytta and features of the postcephalic body are largely plesiomorphic. The musculature of the head is only moderately simplified while the one of the postcephalic body is well developed. Its thorax is largely characterised by plesiomorphies. The characteristics of the legs suggest phoretic habits, even though this does not apply to larvae of Lytta. It is conceivable that a phoretic behaviour is secondarily lost, together with some but not all morphological modifications related to it. Derived features of the abdomen of Meloidae are the complete loss of the fixed urogomphi (also missing in Rhipiphoridae and other related groups) and the presence of one or two conspicuous caudal bristles. Only few features of Lytta are shared with the parasitic larvae of Rhipiphoridae and Strepsiptera. These characteristics, which are possibly linked with specialised life habits, have obviously evolved independently. Miniaturisation effects are minimal in the larvae of Lytta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Coleoptera / anatomy & histology*
  • Coleoptera / growth & development
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Larva / anatomy & histology
  • Larva / growth & development
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning

Grants and funding

The project partly supported by grants from the National Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 31010103913 and 30970390), the Knowledge Innovation Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (No. KSCX3-IOZ-1004), the National Science Fund for Fostering Talents in Basic Research (Special Subjects in Animal Taxonomy, NSFC-J0630964/J0109, J0930004). BW is supported by the DFG (grant number BE1789/61) and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Fellowship for Young International Scientist (grant number 2011Y2SB05). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.