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Just noticed some green bottle flies in my backyard. They are shiny. A shine like that attracts attention (of potential predators) and probably takes some work to maintain. This made me wonder why they might have evolved this. The Wikipedia article on them suggests this is used by males to identify mates.

It is further supported by this paper linked by @DkNguyen.

But common houseflies don't shine like that. They rely on pheromones instead. Why these very different strategies?

What surprises me is that the two fly species (green bottle flies and house flies) are probably closely related because they share so many other traits. And yet, their mating strategies are so radically different. I'm looking for where this branching off happened on the tree of evolution and what could have caused it.


My attempt at an explanation:

For the most part, I see the shiny green bottle flies outdoors. Either when there is poop, or a carcass or something with a strong smell. This seems to be supported by the following article: https://www.aardvarkpest.co.uk/blue-green-bottle-fly/

On the other hand, the common houseflies I mostly run into indoors where there aren't many strong smells from the things they might eat (which is not to say they necessarily evolved in this environment, just that it plays to their strengths). This suggests that the shiny green bottle flies are attracted to food that smells strong and that they are relying primarily on their sense of smell to seek out food. This probably means that if they use their sense of smell for finding mates too, it's going to overload that sense, causing them to not be as effective at finding mates and procreating.

This seems like a good reason for evolution to select for switching the mechanism of finding mates to one based on vision rather than smell in cases where the smell is relied on for other important tasks.

Are there any papers or other material to support or refute any of the reasoning in this chain?

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    $\begingroup$ The guys dig it. Also, apparently they have good colour vision. sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170214162804.htm $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 15 '21 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen Want to turn your comment into an answer? $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Aug 15 '21 at 9:47
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    $\begingroup$ Not really, not since I don't think there is enough there and I don't really want to look further. There's probably something more definitive out there. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 15 '21 at 17:34
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Why do some bad traits evolve, and good ones don't? $\endgroup$ Aug 28 '21 at 23:55
  • $\begingroup$ Not quite. I get the general answer, but my question is more specific. The two fly species (green bottle flies and house flies) are probably closely related because they share so many other traits. And yet, their mating strategies are so radially different. I'm looking for where this branching off happened on the tree of evolution and what could have caused it. $\endgroup$ Aug 29 '21 at 4:14

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