Find a Mate the Stalk-eyed Fly Way!

Are you tired of sitting alone at home on Friday night, binge watching American Binge Watcher on Netflix and eating gluten-free gluten? Do you look in the mirror and say “What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I find that special someone to share the next four hours with?”

Are you at the end of your rope?

Well, don’t kick the chair away yet – because you can take a page from the stalk-eyed fly playbook and be scoring in as soon as an hour.

I love you.

I love you.

Image by Rob Knell (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Stalk-eyed flies live near water and are part of the immense invisible clean-up crew that keeps the planet from overflowing with what once was. As larvae and adults, they eat decaying vegetable and animal matter (thanks, flies).

When a stalk-eyed fly emerges from the pupae after metamorphosis from larvae to adult, its body is transparent, a robot-alien that could have been designed by HR Giger. It immediately goes to work on itself while its body is still malleable.

The fly sucks air bubbles into its head through an oral cavity and forces the bubbles into its eye stalks, stretching them until the span between eyes is, well, eye-catching. In some species it is longer than the fly’s body length. Bizarre is not the half of it.

Once the exoskeleton hardens, the span between its eyes is so extreme that it could be an aerodynamic handicap. But what impairs flight is what also allows the male to win the only game that matters. Male rivalry is all a matter of measurement.

Flies gather in a lek at night to prove their superiority in the eye-width battle. According to the blog Daily Organism:

In “lekking species of animals. . .males come together to a central area to show off for the females, usually defending a very small territory, sometimes as small as a few body lengths depending upon the species of lekking male. . .while the females arrive at the lekking grounds and choose what they consider to be the ‘best’ of the males.”

Mostly, the males face off comparing eye spans, sometimes elongating their legs to heighten the effect. Females usually prefer mates with eyes that have a “wide stance.”

Stalk-eyee flies are classic examples of both sexual selection and the Handicap Principle. Wikipedia says:

“The central idea is that sexually selected traits function like conspicuous consumption, signalling the ability to afford to squander a resource. Receivers know that the signal indicates quality because inferior quality signallers cannot afford to produce such wastefully extravagant signals.”

In other words, the male is such a healthy specimen that he can survive with sexual ornaments that would put lesser organisms out of business.

Males will even measure themselves against their mirrored reflections. As I assume these contests would result in an eternal draw, I hope scientists have the decency to eventually remove the glass.

The handicap principle isn’t the only reason that females choose wide-eyed dudes, as Wikipedia, as always, explains:

“Male eye span still reveals genetic variation in response to environmental stress after accounting for differences in body size. . .these results strongly support the conclusion that female mate choice yields genetic benefits for offspring as eye span acts as a truthful indicator of male fitness. Eye span is therefore not only selected on the basis of attractiveness, but also because it demonstrates good genes in mates.”

This is all very well and good, but what can the lonely take from the fly’s tale?

Stand out from the crowd in obvious, sometimes disfiguring ways. Get a cranial implant to flatten and broaden the top of your skull, so that casually balancing a stick of 25 external hard drives on your head while sipping an espresso is effortless, or balancing a gallon of espresso in an over sized cup while connecting external hard drives to machines in public places looks like a breeze.

Take on rivals where potential mates can see you. Pick the proper lek – whether night club, post office, or county fair – and confront inferior individuals such as the elderly, the apathetic, or the confused.

When you are born, pump air bubbles into your head.

Note: The stalk-eyed flu, which I accidentally did a search on, thankfully did not return any hits.  Lookee here! A video of the dang thing!