From Assynt dung to The Royal Society

October 21st 2020

From Assynt dung to The Royal Society

Probably safe to say that not many holiday photo albums contain images of Yellow Dung Flies Scathophaga stercoraria mating on cow dung. However, the article linked to below contains the following introductory statement

“The yellow dungfly, Scathophaga (=Scatophagastercoraria L. holds a special place in the history of sperm competition research.”

On 18 Oct 2015, while monitoring for whales and dolphins at Stoer Head Lighthouse, I couldn’t help but notice the huge number of these flies on the liberally deposited cow dung nearby.

Always looking for images to help expand the various galleries on the Field Club’s website I took several photographs. One was placed on the website’s ‘Other Insects’ Gallery and there it sat.

5 years later

Jump to August 2020 and the Field Club received an email from Helen Eaton, Senior Commissioning Editor of Philosophical Transactions B and Biographical Memoirs at The Royal Society.

Helen had been searching for a suitable photograph of Yellow Dung Flies to use on the cover of one of the Society’s journals and found the ‘ideal’ photo on our website. Helen asked if the Club could put her in touch with D. Haines who the photo was credited to.

A straight forward task as I had opened the email!

On 19 October 2020 the online version of the journal was published with Assynt’s mating Yellow Dung Flies adorning the cover. The printed version of the journal will be published in a few weeks.

I am very happy to see my photo published, but I am more delighted that our website is being found and used in many different ways. A lot of hard, time-consuming effort goes in to running the site and it’s always nice to know that this resource is being utilised in Assynt and beyond.

If you want to know lots more about ‘sperm competition and the yellow dungfly’ here’s the link to the fascinating article by Leigh W. Simmons, Geoff A. Parker and David J. Hosken.

Evolutionary insight from a humble fly: sperm competition and the yellow dungfly


David Haines

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