World’s tiniest fly named after Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger has been many things in his life: Mr. Universe, the world’s most iconic action star, the governor of California and, now he finds himself as the inspiration for the name of the world’s smallest fly, Megapropodiphora arnoldi. While naming a tiny creature after such an imposing figure might seem like a mismatch, M. arnoldi actually boasts some pretty sizeable forelegs to match Arnold’s own muscles.

In a paper published in Biodiversity Data Journal, Brian V. Brown, an entomologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, discovered Megapropodiphora arnoldi in Brazil and says that he knew he had to name the new species after Arnold. With one female specimen measuring in at 0.395 millimeters, M. arnoldi is just barely smaller than the previous record holder for smallest fly,  Euryplatea nanaknihali, also documented by Brown in 2012.

M. arnoldi has reportedly yet to be observed in its natural environment, having been found after its capture. However, based on its size and shape, Brown determined that the tiny fly has to be a parasitoid, most likely one which hatches inside the host bodies of ants. The fly’s unusual shape is almost as interesting as its incredibly diminutive stature. It boasts disproportionately large forelegs, giving it the appearance of something like a tiny bodybuilder. Brown reportedly knew almost immediately that he wanted to name his discovery after Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“As soon as I saw those bulging legs, I knew I had to name this one after Arnold,” (Drawing by T. Hayden.)

Brown also referenced Arnold Schwarzenegger as “a major cultural icon and an important person in the political realm”.  He also mentioned that Schwarzenegger inspired him to work out as a teenager. This is far from the first species to be named after a famous figure. In fact, seven species of spider were recently named after literary figures in much the same way.

The newly discovered fly’s large forelegs are accompanied by much smaller mid and hind legs as well as wings which seem to be too small to enable flight. This is what allowed M. arnoldi to be identified as a parasitic species, as it likely attaches itself to hosts with its powerful forelegs, allowing it to be carried back to the colony where it can feed.

While it might not be the flashiest creature, Arnold Schwarzenegger himself apparently took it as an honour, tweeting “Thanks for the great honor, Dr. Brown. Now I’m committed to making sure we get your thighs as muscular as the fly’s!

Ronan Daly

Ronan Daly is a staff writer for My Good Planet who specialises in Technology and Science. With a Masters Degree in English, and over a decade's experience as a teacher and writer, Ronan has brought a breezy, learned style to My Good Planet, making occasionally complex material accessible and understandable to all.