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Jun 22, 2018, 9 tweets

Yeah, so...this is a really good question about a word we used in that last Sciarid tweet.

"Voltrons" is not a technical term, but I kind of feel like it should be.

Especially for formations like this.

Thread below, although not quite a #DeepDive.

Take a look at the insects in the original tweet from @natevanwechel and compare them to the sawflies below.

More or less, they're doing the same thing for reasons/benefits that aren't entirely clear.

Sometimes, insects will migrate in large groups from one place to another. Processionary caterpillars form a convoy, but some sawflies and Sciarids form huge groups that seem to act as a single organism.

They don't join up like slime moulds, but the idea isn't that different.

There's a number of different explanations for this, but the one I've always found the most compelling is the surface-to-volume ratio explanation.

Essentially, if you're migrating as a bunch of smaller bodies, you have more surface area exposed.

It's better to team up!

If you're a migratory formation of insects, having a large surface area is bad for a few reasons.

The most obvious one is dehydration. If you're small, water can leave your body the journey is more dangerous

There's a second, more interesting, one though


If you look closely at the picture above, you'll see some tiny little flies tracking that mass of sawflies.

Here's a closeup picture.

This is a Phorid fly, one which specializes on parasitizing this species of sawfly.

These flies were traveling along with the larvae, laying their eggs on whatever larvae they could access.

Here's the best picture of the flies laying eggs I could get.

These flies are only going to have access to the larvae on the outside of the group. The larvae on the inside are safe because the flies can't get to them.

The larger the group, the safer the larvae.

There's benefits to forming a large group like this, and acting as one!

So...why do I think this sort of formation should be called a "Voltron?"

Voltron also comes together to become more powerful!

Also, when I see pictures/videos like this, I always imagine the bugs saying the lines in the video below.

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