Billy Gibbons — Is That You?

Reminder:  You can enlarge any of the photos in this blog by clicking on it.  Click again for a full screen image.

Chalk it up to my fevered imagination, but when I first viewed this image my immediate reaction was that the subject was an exact clone of Billy Gibbons, founding member and lead guitarist and vocalist of the rock band, ZZ Top.  And just to prove I’m not crazy, you readers need to google “ZZ Top images” and have a look for yourself.

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Well, if the photo is not a portrait of Billy, then what is the subject?  Here’s a hint.  Although not the same insect it is a member of the same species that I featured in a post several days ago.

It’s another Assassin Fly, a/k/a Robber Fly, and here’s a lateral view of “Billy.”  I photographed it yesterday morning.  I had gone over to still-dry Sabino Creek in my continuing and so-far futile search for a Tiger Rattlesnake and I saw this insect sitting on a rock.  In life it is about 3/4 of an inch long.

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A few things are evident when one enlarges the image of “Billy’s” face.  First, notice this insect’s enormous compound eyes.  This is a predator that depends on superb vision. Its eyes are made up of thousands of individual facets, each of which is an eye in its own right.  “Billy’s” brain processes many thousands of distinct images and somehow sees all of them as a single image.  Pretty neat.  What’s even cooler is that this fly has three additional eyes, not visible in these photos, located on top of its head, between the gigantic compound eyes.  These are so-called “simple” eyes in that they are not made up of tiny facets.  How the insect’s brain integrates what these simple eyes perceive with the images that are captured by the compound eyes is a good question.

Here’s another interesting fact about this fly.  Its proboscis is clearly visible in both the portrait shot and the lateral image and what a fearsome weapon it is!  Notice that it’s shaped just like a chisel, perfect for punching a hole in the exoskeleton of some beetle or a wasp, for injecting venom, and for sucking out bodily fluids.

Next, look at “Billy’s” feet.  Each foot is tipped with two needle sharp talons, reminiscent of the talons on raptors.  These are perfect for grabbing on to and holding prey. And, finally, notice the fly’s long white beard.  Entomologists speculate that the beard protects the fly against the desperate struggles of prey insects.

Quite the efficient little killer is our “Billy!”

Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens, ISO 200.  The first photo was taken at f20 at 1/160.  The second, at f18 at 1/160.  Both photos were assisted by a Canon 600EX-RT speedlite.

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