The Firefly, a True Example of Evolution
Many million years ago when the things began to leave the water and become land-bound creatures, a fly was born. His name was Leo Larvae, but he and his family was not happy with their lot because they were the target of birds and frogs and other fly-haters.
In time, Leo became head of the family and his local clan. He called a conference regarding their oppressed manner of life.
“If we are to fit into the “survival of the fittest program,” he said, “ we have to change our way of life. From now on, as long as I am the leader of the family and clan, we will only go out at night. It will make us much harder to spot.”
The family had no alternative but to agree. After all, even flies know that one should have respect for their elders, whether they are right or wrong. So the new directive was broadcast and all the flies of the family and the clan began to go out at night only.
In a short while it was noticed that a great number of the family members were still disappearing under the new directive. The community was a-buzz with concern. How could this be? (Can we use the word “be” in a story about flies?)
So Leo discussed the problem with his wife, Maggie. (Leo Larvae had married Maggie Maggot many weeks earlier and now in their twilight days, they were among the oldest living couples in the clan.) They decided an investigation was called for.
Leo named his son Billie Bluebottle the chief investigator. Billie was on the job that same night, flitting about carefully in the dark, stopping here and there to suck on a dead item or two.
On one such stop, he heard a buzzing coming closer. He looked on all directions, at once, as flies are able to do, and saw cousin Bobbie Blow zooming about at high speed. He always did live on the edge, especially restaurant tables. Then, for some unknown reason and without varying his course, Bobbie slammed into a tree. Billie immediately went to his rescue but it was too late.
Bobbie had smashed into the tree so hard he was enmeshed in the bark. Billie alit next to Bobbie and found he could do nothing for him. So, while considering his next step, Billie sucked up the remains of Bobbie's fluids before flying home. But on the way a thought struck his massive brain.
He slowed his pace and began inspecting the trees more closely, and he found the answer. Wedged in the bark of other trees in the area of his home, Billie found the remains of aunts and uncles and cousins. He had to let dad know immediately.
Once at home, Billie reported his findings. Immediately Leo revised his plan. He advised all the family to slow down, when flying. Trees were a greater danger to the speed demons than the daytime creatures. Even with their level of intelligence, this had escaped their thoughts so, in addition to his directives, Leo add another fail safe device. All the local trees were posted with signs reading "When Flying Avoid Hitting Trees."
He also instituted a new government department, Sign Sanitation. Sign Sanitation, or SS as they called themselves were responsible cleaning the remains of dead flies from the signs. Most were female with only half their makeup applied. But many were male. The males were usually found with their heads smashed but turned in the direction of the females.
Yet, Leo decided to stick to the original plan. Time, reputation and money were invested so it had to be made to work regardless of the consequences. (This plan is still in existence today. It goes by two labels, politics and big business.)
After several days, they found the number of family members missing increased at an even greater level. What was going on here? So Leo called on Billie again.
By this time, Billie had gotten married and had maggots of his own, but family was family and had to be protected. So out he went that night. But he didn’t have to go far. Landing on the first tree, he just sat and wrung his hands and waited. It didn’t take long to see the danger.
Cousin Harry the horse and his family were out for a short flight when all of a sudden, bam, Harry was gone. Then his wife, then his children. All were gone in a moment of frenzied flight.
Harry and his family adhered to the family order not too fly to fast. That made them perfect targets for the quick flying bats that lived in the dark reaches of the forest. They slept by day but became hunters at night. Bats were the murderers of Billie’s missing kin folk.
Once the frenzy subsided, Billie headed back to the nest and reported in. Leo was beside himself. What could they do? Predators were everywhere at all times of the day or night.
Another family and clan conference was called which included as many cousins as were available. And the oldest member of the clan, Felix Fruit, also made the conference.
Felix was in his sunset days, being about 35 days of age, and his life experiences were considered to be invaluable.
Felix proposed a new plan. Half of the family would go back to the daytime hours; the other half would continue on the night schedule.
Those that resumed the daytime schedule would have to redefine their habitat. Felix suggested the day timers relocate closer to one of the a newer species newly evolved from the sludge pond. He called them “man.” His reasoning was threefold; 1) man was wasteful leaving much more food reserves for the flies and 2) man was slow witted and had a slower in reaction time than other animals and 3) man seldom learned from his mistakes which presented a certain level of security for fly safety and little need to change life-style.
As to the night flies, they would continue to fly slower but more cautiously, keeping away from known bat haunts. They would also move closer to man's settlements for the above reasons. And they would all form a committee of “flies on the wall” who would develop a new strategy of night flight.
The plan was accepted though the night flies would have to “wing it” until this new strategy was developed.
Days passed, and so did Leo, Felix and Billie. But the work continued with the next generation until a young genius Thick-Headed fly named Connor Conopidae discovered the formula for bioluminescence by combining the pollen of several plants and flowers along with other ingredients he found around man's leavings. The formula was discovered by accident while working on another project.
Though Connor was a genius by all accounts, he was one of the ugliest flies ever born. As such, he had nothing to offer the lady flies. No matter what he did, they avoided him like the plague, leaving him a very lonely fly. But he did not give up. And it was this driving need for a companion that brought Connor to his great discovery of bioluminescence or self-emitting light.
Connor flew with all speed with this discovery to Sid Screwworm, the new clan leader. Of course, Sid was not convinced by Connor’s lab notes and diagrams. He wanted to see it in action, so Connor complied.
That evening, Connor mixed his first public batch of luciferase, magnesium, etc. and sucked it down in one gulp. He did not know what to expect.
To date he had only tested in on humans. While they were sleeping or spaced out, he would spit drops and bits of his concoction in their mouths. Sometimes they would show glow spots in various locations, but only for a moment. The glow would quickly disappear leaving only colored marks on their skin, usually on their back just above their butt or on a forearm. Connor called them tattoos. Anyway he took the chance and drank the mixture.
After a moment, Connor fell into a euphoric state. Though he could still fly, try as he might, he could not develop any speed or direction. He seemed to drift about, hovering at times like a feather on the breeze.
Then all of a sudden he began to feel a warmth in his bulbous underbelly. He looked down and could see the cause. He had begun to glow. Intermittent lights of yellow or green signaled his location to the spectators in the dark night. On one occasion a bat flew by but was apparently blinded by the light and missed his attack several times before moving on.
In time, Conner became more in control of himself, he was able to generate more speed. He circle around the nest as fast as he could using his light to see dodge and the trees and bushes that had killed so many of his ancestors. “Eureka” he yelled. “He have found it. This is the answer to night flight and the survival of our species.”
Yes, Connor had discovered the ability to create self-emitting light. But there was more.
As Connor looked about, he could see a trail of lady flies closely following him smiling and hoping they would be the one he would pick for his mate. At first Connor thought he might be emitting a pleasing aroma, but then he remembered. Ladies always like big, shiny important things and people, regardless of their looks.
It had taken him six days but his work was complete. Connor had developed a safeguard for his relatives as well as a bevy of young ladies with which he could begin a family.
Well, generations have passed and so have many of the early pioneers in science such as Leo and Felix. They had put their minds together to save their kind, inspiring youngsters like Connor who had found the answer. But it was done. Flies could now fly safely at night without fear of running into trees or being swallowed by bats. The flies were saved. Life would be better for all.
And even the humans were happy. Unlike their disdain for the flies of the day, the night time visitors brought joy and wonder for a moment. They called them lightning bugs or “fireflies,”
Connor Conopidae lived out his remaining 13 days with his wives and larvae. He was given hero status and a new name based on his initials, Tsi Tsi, lord of the flies.
Connor is the epitome of science and a masterpiece of evolutionary development.