Taxonomy

The species was first named in the literature by Schiner (1862) as Sarcophila magnifica.  However, its larvae had previously been figured (but not named) in 1770 by a German physician, Dr J.A. Wohlfahrt, who removed some larvae from the eye of a patient.

Portschinsky, who knew of Wohlfahrt’s paper but not of Schiner’s, named the fly Sarcophila wohlfahrti in 1875. The genus Wohlfahrtia  was created by Brauer and Bergenstamm in 1889. A comprehensive description of the morphological characteristics of the taxon are given by Povolný and Verves (1997).

Morphology

Adults of W. magnifica are handsome fleshflies, with a striped greyish thorax and an abdomen whose dorsal surface is bright white with a series of contrasting dark black spots, three per tergite, with the central spots elongated and tending to merge at their anterior edge with the one above.

Molecular biology

Recent studies show that there are at least two main lineages of this species, based on analysis of the Cytochrome-b gene (mitochondrial DNA). These are western and eastern Mediterranean lineages, probably relics of ice-age refugia.

Continental refugia await discovery. There is a strong geographical signal from the mt-DNA analysis which can help to show where invasions have or have not originated (Hall et al., 2009).

Evolution

Wohlfahrtia magnifica is the only obligate parasite in the genus and, therefore, likely to be one of the most recently derived taxa, evolving from carrion breeding species.

  • Lookalikes

    Due to its similar appearance to other flies in the genus, identifying Wohlfahrtia magnifica requires microscope and an experienced entomologist. Find out more about similar looking and behaving species to Wohlfahrtia magnifica and what is done to specify them.