Nature, red in tooth and claw
figureposted on 2012-01-03, 00:00 authored by Erika Arnold
This image was produced with a scanning electron microscope (SEM). It is a highly magnified view of the tarsal claw on a bat fly’s front leg. These flies are obligate ectoparasites of bats and, as an evolutionary group, display an incredibly diverse range of adaptations for life on a bat. In this image, you can see how well these flies can cling to the fur of a moving mammal, and how sensitive they might be to their host’s tiniest movements. I gather information with these SEM photos that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye, and I use it to explore the evolutionary patterns and even the ecology of this unique group.