Catalog of fossil Diptera of the world (Version 2.0) - Neal L. Evenhuis

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Members of the calypterate family Glossinidae are the fabled "tsetse"** of Africa. Adults of extant forms are principal vectors of sleeping sickness. Females are larviparous. After the larva is laid on the ground, it immediately pupates.


The current distribution of the family is restricted to the African continent, though the fossil record of these flies is known only from the Oligocene of the North American continent. Many workers have postulated the fly's possible hosts in the geologic past and various reasons for such a disjunct distribution. One of the more colorful of these was related by Cole & Schlinger (1969) who stated "A very rough estimate has been given concerning these ancient glossinid flies, which were said to have subsisted on dinosaur blood for a hundred million years. When their big bloodbanks vanished, they turned to the nearest available substitute, the alligator."


Lambrecht (1980) has more recently hypothesized the geological and evolutionary history of the family. Grimaldi (1992) is the most current worker to review the fossil record and revised the systematics of the fossils and discussed the cladistic biogeography and paleobiogeography of the group.

Refs.: Cockerell (1918, review of fossil taxa); Lambrecht (1980, paleoecology of Glossina); Grimaldi (1992, review of fossil taxa).




Genus GLOSSINA Wiedemann

*GLOSSINA Wiedemann, 1830: 253. Type species: Glossina longipalpis Wiedemann, 1830, by monotypy.

PALOESTRUS Scudder, 1892: 18. Type species: Paloestrus oligocenus Scudder, 1892, by monotypy.

COCKERELLITHA Townsend, 1938: 166. Type species: Glossina osborni Cockerell, 1909, by original designation.

LITHOGLOSSINA Townsend, 1938: 166. Type species: Glossina armatipes Cockerell, 1917 [= Glossina osborni Cockerell, 1909], by original designation.

oligocenus Scudder, 1892: 19 (Paloestrus). NE: USA (Oligocene) [C].

    veterna Cockerell, 1916b: 70. NE: USA (Oligocene) [C].

osborni Cockerell, 1909e: 128. NE: USA (Oligocene) [C].

    armatipes Cockerell, 1917a: 19. NE: USA (Oligocene) [C].















** The word "tsetse" is from the Tswana language of southern Africa and means, literally, "fly". This means that the many scientists and others who have commonly called these flies "tsetse flies" are really calling them "fly flies".



This page last revised 16 February 2014