Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Subclass: Pterygota
Infraclass: Neoptera
Superorder: Endopterygota
Order: Diptera
Linnaeus, 1758

Nematocera (includes Eudiptera)

Diptera (di - two, ptera - wings), or true flies, is the order of insects possessing only a single pair of wings on the mesothorax; the metathorax bears a pair of drumstick like structures called the halteres, the remnants of the hind wings. It is a large order, containing an estimated 240,000 species, although under half of these (about 120,000 species) have been described [1]. It is one of the major insect orders both in terms of ecological and human (medical and economic) importance. The Diptera, in particular the mosquitoes Culicidae, are of phenomenal historical and current importance as disease transmitters, acting as vectors for malaria, dengue, West Nile Virus, yellow fever and other infectious diseases. The study of the Diptera is called dipterology.

Diptera include flies, mosquitoes, maggots, gnats and midges. In compound names containing "fly" for members of this order, the name is normally written as two words, as in "crane fly", though there are a few historical exceptions, such as "sandfly" and "blackfly". For insects that are members of other orders the name should always be written as a single word such as in "butterfly", "scorpionfly".


Ecology and life history

Diptera are a diverse order with an enormous range of ecological roles. Every type of trophic level pattern can be seen in the Diptera. Dipteran predators include the robber fly (Asilidae) [2]. A variety of herbivores can be found in the Diptera, such as the economically important fruit flies (Tephritidae). Flies are often parasites, including internal parasites endo- such as the bot fly and external parasites ectoparasite such as the mosquito, black fly, sand fly or louse fly. Myiasis is the special term for flies infecting living tissue (such as the screw worm fly. Many flies eat dead organic matter detritovores, plant or animal remains. This is especially common in the larval stage, seen in the filter-feeding mosquitoes and black flies to the dung-feeding blow flies (Calliphoridae) or the organic deposit feeding rat-tailed maggot.

The basic fly life cycle is egg, larvae, pupa and adult (winged stage), called holometabolism. There is often a different in food sources for larvae versus adult dipterans of the same species. For example, [mosquito] larvae live in standing water and feed on detritus while the adults feed on nectar as their energy source while females utilize blood as their energy source for egg production.


CSIRO provides an introduction to the external anatomy of the Diptera. Various species are secondarily wingless (especially in the superfamily Hippoboscoidea, or those that are inquilines in social insect colonies).

Classification overview

There are two generally accepted suborders of Diptera. The Nematocera are usually recognized by their elongated bodies and feathery antennae as represented by mosquitoes and crane flies. The Brachycera tend to have a more roundly proportioned body and very short antennae. A more recent classification has been proposed in which the Nematocera is split into two suborders, the Archidiptera and the Eudiptera, but this has not yet gained widespread acceptance among dipterists.

  1. Suborder Nematocera – long antennae, pronotum distinct from mesonotum. In Nematocera larvae are either eucephalic or hemicephalic and often aquatic.
  2. Suborder Brachycera – short antennae, the pupa is inside a puparium formed from the last larval skin. Brachycera are generally robust flies with larvae having reduced mouthparts.
    1. Infraorders Tabanomorpha and Asilomorpha – these comprise the majority of what was the Orthorrhapha under older classification schemes. The antennae are short, but differ in structure from those of the Muscomorpha.
    2. Infraorder Muscomorpha – (largely the Cyclorrhapha of older schemes). Muscomorpha have 3-segmented, aristate (with a bristle) antennae and larvae with three instars that are acephalic (maggots).

Most of the Muscomorpha are further subdivided into the Acalyptratae and Calyptratae based on whether or not they have a calypter (a wing flap that extends over the halteres).

Beyond that, considerable revision in the taxonomy of the flies has taken place since the introduction of modern cladistic techniques, and much remains uncertain. The secondary ranks between the suborders and the families are more out of practical or historical considerations than out of any strict respect for phylogenetic classifications. (Modern cladists tend to spurn the use of Linnaean rank names.) Nearly all classifications in use now, including this article, contain some paraphyletic groupings; this is emphasized where the numerous alternative systems are most greatly at odds.

Current suborders and families

There are two suborders: the Nematocera divided into 77 families of which 35 are extinct ( fossil only ) and the Brachycera with 141 families of which 8 are extinct. See Families of Diptera.

Obsolete names in diptera

There are many names at the family level or above that have been used historically, even some of recent vintage, that are already obsolete or simply not recognized or universally accepted by the dipterological community. For a rather exhaustive list of such names (esp. for those readers who may be wondering why they cannot find a familiar name), please see the List of obsolete names in Diptera.


  1. ^ Wiegmann, B.M. and D.K. Yeates, 1996. Tree of Life: Diptera. http://www2.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/ftp/bwiegman/fly_html/diptera.html#about
  2. ^ Geller-Grimm, F. http://www.geller-grimm.de/general.htm


  • Harold Oldroyd The Natural History of Flies. New York: W. W. Norton.1965.
  • Eugène Séguy Diptera: recueil d'etudes biologiques et systematiques sur les Dipteres du Globe (Collection of biological and systematic studies on Diptera of the World). 11 vols. Text figs. Part of Encyclopedie Entomologique, Serie B II: Diptera. 1924-1953.
  • Eugène Seguy. La Biologie des Dipteres 1950. pp. 609. 7 col + 3 b/w plates, 225 text figs.


  • Colless, D.H. & McAlpine, D.K.1991 Diptera (flies) , pp. 717-786. In: The Division of Entomology. Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Canberra (spons.), The insects of Australia.Melbourne Univ. Press, Melbourne.
  • Griffiths, G.C.D. The phylogenetic classification of Diptera Cyclorrhapha, withspecial reference to the structure of the male postabdomen. Ser. Ent. 8, 340 pp. [Dr. W. Junk, N. V., The Hague] (1972).
  • Hendel, F. 1935 Bemerkungen zu "The families and genera of North American Diptera" by C. H.Curran,New-York 1934. Konowia 14: 51-57. [1935.03.15]
  • Willi Hennig Die Larvenformen der Dipteren. 3. Teil. Akad.-Verlag, Berlin. 185 pp., 3 pls. 1948 and
  • Flugelgeader und System der Dipteren unter Berucksichtigung der aus dem Mesozoikum beschriebenen Fossilien. Beitr. Ent. 4: 245-388 (1954).

A very well-researched reference list of works on the Phylogeny (Classification and Identification of Diptera) is provided by Thompson as a pdf [1]


Blagoderov, V.A., Lukashevich, E.D. & Mostovski, M.B. 2002. Order Diptera. In: Rasnitsyn, A. P. and Quicke, D.L.J. The History of Insects, Kluwer Publ., Dordrecht, Boston, London, pp. 227-240.


  • Erwin Lindner Die Fliegen der Paläarktischen Region. The available parts of this very large work are listed on the publishers website [2]. Band 1 Handbuch, by Lindner himself, contains a history of dipterology, with sections on morphology, physiology and taxonomy with a key to families and short notes on each. The work is finished and almost all parts are out of date but it remains the essential work.
  • Faune de France Lechevalier, Paris. The many parts of this work are listed on the publishers website [3]. Less comprehensive than Lindner and , similarly, out of date but more convenient to use. The best parts are Parent on Dolichopodidae and Séguy’s large part 28 on Muscidae (including Anthomyiidae) Scathophagidae and Acalyptratae).
  • Diptera of European part of Russia and Diptera of Far East of the U.S.S.R. in Fauna of the U.S.S.R. (New Series Fauna SSSR)

(Nasekomye dvukrylye) Chief Editor: B.E. Bykhovskii; Editorial board: I.M. Gromov, A.S. Monchadskii, A .A. Shtakel’berg, 0-A. Skarlato, and A.A. Strelkov (Volume editor) Izdatel’stvo “Nauka”Leningradskoe Otdelenie Leningrad (St. Petersburg). In Russian but with very useful figures. Some parts have been translated. Can anyone add a full list and availalibility details?

  • Willi Hennig Diptera (Zweifluger). Handb. Zool. Berl. 4 (2 ) (31):1-337. General introduction with key to World Families. In German.
  • László Papp and Béla Darvas Contributions to a Manual of Palaearctic Diptera. This book series was written by a group of international scientists. (1992-2000).
  • McAlpine, J. P. (ed.) Manual of Nearctic Diptera. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada Monograph 27, 28 & 32 1981-89. Very good family and other keys.
  • Smith, KGV 1989 An introduction to the immature stages of British flies. Diptera (14). Handbks. Ident. Br. Insects 10(14). RESL Excellent introduction to Diptera larvae.

Famous dipterists

A list of famous Dipterists, the term for entomologists who specialised in the order Diptera, is found under Dipterists Early entomologists who described Diptera as parts of general entomological works are listed under Entomologists examples are:

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Diptera — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda ? Diptera Prosopomya pallida (Lauxaniidae) Clasificación científica …   Wikipedia Español

  • Diptera — Dip te*ra, n. pl. [NL., fr. Gr. ? with two wings, di = di s twice + ? feather, wing: cf. F. dipt[ e]re.] (Zo[ o]l.) An extensive order of insects having only two functional wings and two balancers, as the house fly, mosquito, etc. They have a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Diptera — Diptera. См. двукрылые [насекомые]. (Источник: «Англо русский толковый словарь генетических терминов». Арефьев В.А., Лисовенко Л.А., Москва: Изд во ВНИРО, 1995 г.) …   Молекулярная биология и генетика. Толковый словарь.

  • Diptĕra — (Zweiflügler), die Insectenordnung mit 2 Flügeln u. statt der Hinterflügel mit Schwingkölbchen …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Diptera — Diptera, Zweiflügler, ca. 100000 Arten umfassende Ordnung der Insekten, Unterklasse ⇒ Pterygota. Körperlänge 1–55 mm; Legeröhre bei den f; nur ein Flügelpaar vorhanden; Vorderflügel durchsichtig und geädert (bei einigen Familien fehlen auch… …   Deutsch wörterbuch der biologie

  • dipteră — DIPTÉRĂ s.f. v. dipter. Trimis de LauraGellner, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98 …   Dicționar Român

  • Diptera — Diptères …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Diptera — Zweiflügler Blaue Schmeißfliege (Calliphora spec.) Systematik Unterstamm: Tracheentiere (Tracheata) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Diptera — El orden Diptera comprende a aquellos insectos cuyas alas posteriores han sido reducidas a alterios, quiero esto decir que poseen sólo dos alas menbranosas y no cuatro como el resto de los insectos …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Diptera — noun a large order of insects having a single pair of wings and sucking or piercing mouths; includes true flies and mosquitoes and gnats and crane flies • Syn: ↑order Diptera • Derivationally related forms: ↑dipterous • Hypernyms: ↑animal order • …   Useful english dictionary

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