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dimanche 5 octobre 2014

Animals that don't Exist

The Ash Maggot

The ash maggot, Muscus cinis, is a close relative to the common housefly. Considering genetic analysis only, it could even be doubted whether or not they are truly distinct species. But if we take into account the life-circle of both animals, the ash maggot merits its own place in the linnean classification system.
Ash maggots, as their name indicates, live in ash. But no just any ash. Indeed, ash maggots are found exclusively in cigarette ash. Another thing that sets ash maggots apart from the common housefly is that they stay maggots their entire life, never pupating into the flying adult form. This has raised quite a few questions, since ashtrays are far from being a stable habitat. How do the maggots end up in the ashtray, if their parents were swept into the trash the last time it was emptied?
When the rather peculiar habitat and life cycle of ash maggots was first discovered, it raised quite a few questions. Why would they choose such a hostile environment? How did they manage to keep a stable population, when ashtrays are being emptied daily? And why did they evolve to loose their flying form? Scientists have tried their best to find answers to these questions, but for now, nothing is certain.
Dr. Hendrik van der Pupe, of the Dutch Institute for Uninhabitable Habitats and their Inhabitants (DIUHI) speculates that a hostile environment greatly reduces niche competition, so that whatever species can survive in a hostile environment will colonize it simply because of the lack of competitors. Prof. Jeanmi de la Ronde, on the other hand, is of the opinion that it is competition that drove the maggots to colonize our ashtrays, and not the lack thereof. De la Ronde believes that ash maggots first adopted a maggot-only life-circle, and later on, because of selective pressure from their flying relatives, were forced to migrate to the ashtrays.
Even though ash maggots have been discovered recently, they are already facing severe threats. Since the surge of anti-tobacco lobbies, ashtrays have become fewer and fewer, threatening the natural habitat of ash maggots. In addition, it seems that the reduction in added chemicals in todays cigarettes also has a detrimental effect on ash maggot populations, and it is very well possible that this species will go extinct before we ever understand all of its secrets.

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