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This is an archived version of a Tree of Life page. For up-to-date information, please refer to the current version of this page.


taxon links [down<--]Diptera [up-->]Stratiomyidae [up-->]Therevidae [up-->]Mydidae [up-->]Apioceridae [up-->]Bombyliidae [up-->]Empidoidea [up-->]Cyclorrhapha Interpreting the tree
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This tree diagram shows the relationships between several groups of organisms.

The root of the current tree connects the organisms featured in this tree to their containing group and the rest of the Tree of Life. The basal branching point in the tree represents the ancestor of the other groups in the tree. This ancestor diversified over time into several descendent subgroups, which are represented as internal nodes and terminal taxa to the right.

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You can click on the root to travel down the Tree of Life all the way to the root of all Life, and you can click on the names of descendent subgroups to travel up the Tree of Life all the way to individual species.

For more information on ToL tree formatting, please see Interpreting the Tree or Classification. To learn more about phylogenetic trees, please visit our Phylogenetic Biology pages.

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Tree from Yeates 1994; Yeates 2002; Wiegmann et al. 2003; Yeates et al. 2003; Moulton and Wiegmann 2004.
Containing group: Diptera


The suborder Brachycera represents a major division of the Diptera containing approximately 120 families and a great diversity of species, morphological innovations, and life history strategies. The name "Brachycera" or "shortened horn" refers to their shortened antennae --a reduced antenna with fewer than 8 antennal flagellomeres is the easiest to recognise of a list of defining features (see below). The origins of the Brachycera can be traced to the late Triassic or earliest Jurassic (245-208 mya) based on fossil evidence (Evenhuis 1995; Grimaldi and Cumming 1999; Yeates and Wiegmann 1999) and comparisons of evolutionary rates in DNA sequences (Wiegmann et al. 2003).


Brachycera is well supported monophyletic lineage supported by a number of morphological synapomorphies (Yeates 2002; Yeates and Wiegmann 1999; Sinclair et al. 1993; Woodley 1989): -reduction of antennal flagellomeres to 8 or fewer -posterior portions of larval head capsule elongated into prothorax -maxillary palpus with 2 segments or fewer -wing veins CuA2 and A1 with apices approximate, forming a nearly closed cell Cup -larval mandible subdivided into distinct two parts -premandibles lost from ventral surface of labrum -epandrium and hypandrium of male genitalia separated. Brachyceran flies exhibit a broad array of feeding strategies, life histories and behavioral patterns. Many of the orthorrhaphous lineages are scavengers, predators or parasitoids as larvae. Multiple major radiations of species diversity, feeding habits and habitat specialization can be found in the Cyclorrhapha or "higher" flies.

Discussion of Phylogenetic Relationships

Traditional non-phylogenetic classifications of the brachycera break the group into two major sections, the 'Orthorrhapha' and Cyclorrhapha. The 'Orthorrhaphous' Brachycera is a paraphyletic assemblage of all those families not included in the Cyclorrhapha. Recent classifications based on explicit phylogenetic evidence include 4 monophyletic infraorders: Stratiomyomorpha, Xylophagomorpha, Tabanomorpha, and Muscomorpha. Brachyceran phylogeny has been the subject of intensive study in recent years. Comprehensive phylogenetic treatments in Hennig (1973), Griffiths (1972), Woodley (1989) and Sinclair et al. (1994) began the explicit definition of clades based on synapomorphic character states (see Yeates and Wiegmann 1999 for a review). Quantitative phylogenetic analyses of morphological (Yeates 1994, 2002; Yeates et al. 2003; Meier and Hilger 2000) and gene sequence data (Wiegmann et al. 2000, Wiegmann et al. 2003; Collins and Wiegmann 2001ab; Moulton and Wiegmann 2004) continue to add resolution and support to many of the key lineages of brachyceran flies.


Collins, K. P. and B. M. Wiegmann. 2002. Phylogenetic relationships and placement of the Empidoidea (Diptera: Brachycera) based on 28S rDNA and EF-1a sequences. Insect Systematics and Evolution 33: 421-444.

Griffiths, G.C.D. 1972. The phylogenetic classification of Diptera Cyclorrhapha, with special reference to the male postabdomen. Series entomologica 8, 340pp. The Hague.

Griffiths, G.C.D. 1994. Relationships among the major subgroups of Brachycera (Diptera): A critical review. The Canadian Entomologist, 126:861-880.

Hennig, W. 1973. Diptera. In: W. Kukenthal (ed.) Handbuch der Zoologie, IV: Arthropoda. de Gruyter, New York, pp. 1-337.

Krivosheina, N. P. 1991. Phylogeny of lower Brachycera (Diptera): A new view. Acta Entomologica Bohemoslovaca 88(2): 81-92.

McAlpine, J.F., B.V. Peterson, G.E. Shewell, H.J. Teskey, J.R. Vockeroth, and D.M. Wood (eds.). 1981, 1987. Manual of Nearctic Diptera, Vol. 1 & 2. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Monographs 27 & 28.

McAlpine, J.F and D.M. Wood (eds.). Manual of Nearctic Diptera, Vol. 3. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Monograph 32.

Moulton, J. K. and B. M. Wiegmann. 2004. Evolution and phylogenetic utility of CAD (rudimentary) among Mesozoic-aged Eremoneuran Diptera (Insecta). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 31: 363-378.

Nagatomi, A. 1991. History of some families of Diptera, chiefly those of the lower Brachycera (Insecta: Diptera). Bulletin Of The Biogeographical Society Of Japan 46(1-22): 21-38.

Sinclair, B. J. 1992. A phylogenetic interpretation of the Brachycera (Diptera) based on the larval mandible and associated mouthpart structures. Systematic Entomology 17(3): 233-252.

Sinclair, B.J., Cumming, J.M. and D.M. Wood. 1994. Homology and phylogenetic implications of the male genitalia in Diptera-Lower Brachycera. Entomologica Scandinavica 24: 407-432.

Wada, S. 1991. Morphological evidence for the direct sister group relationship between the Schizophora and the Syrphoidea (Aschiza) in the phylogenetic systematics of the Cyclorrhapha (Diptera: Brachycera). Journal Of Natural History 25(6): 1531-1570.

Wiegmann, B.M., C. Mitter, and F.C. Thompson. 1993. Evolutionary origin of the Cyclorrhapha (Diptera): tests of alternative morphological hypotheses. Cladistics, 9:41-81.

Wiegmann, B. M., D. K. Yeates, J. L. Thorne, and H. Kishino. 2003. Time flies, a new molecular time-scale for brachyceran fly evolution without a clock. Systematic Biology 52:745-756.

Woodley, N.E. 1989. Phylogeny and classification of the "Orthorrhaphous" Brachycera. In: McAlpine J.F., Wood D.M. (eds.)Manual of Nearctic Diptera 3. Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Monograph 32:1371-1395.

Yeates, D.K. 1994. The cladistics and classification of the Bombyliidae (Diptera: Asiloidea). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 219: 1-191.

Yeates, D. K. 2002. Relationships of the lower Brachycera (Diptera): A quantitative synthesis of morphological characters. Zoologica Scripta 31: 105-121.

Yeates, D. K. and B. M. Wiegmann. 1999. Congruence and controversy: Toward a higher-level phylogeny of Diptera. Annual Review of Entomology 44: 397-428.

Yeates, D. K., R. Meier, and B. M. Wiegmann. 2003. Phylogeny of true flies (Diptera): A 250 million year old success story in terrestrial diversification. Entomologische Abhandlungen 61:119.

Zaitsev, V. F. 1991. On the phylogeny and systematics of the dipteran superfamily Bombylioidea (Diptera). Entomologicheskoe Obozrenie 70(3): 716-736.

Information on the Internet

Title Illustrations
Scientific Name Lamprogaster sp.
Comments An Australian platystomatid fly, (Diptera: Brachycera: Cyclorrhapha: Platystomatidae)
Specimen Condition Dead Specimen
Identified By D. K. Yeates
Copyright © 2004 David McClenaghan
Copyright © 2003 Peter Chew
About This Page
Citing this page:

Tree of Life Web Project. 1995. Brachycera. Version 01 January 1995 (under construction). http://tolweb.org/Brachycera/10500/1995.01.01 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/

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Each ToL branch page provides a synopsis of the characteristics of a group of organisms representing a branch of the Tree of Life. The major distinction between a branch and a leaf of the Tree of Life is that each branch can be further subdivided into descendent branches, that is, subgroups representing distinct genetic lineages.

For a more detailed explanation of the different ToL page types, have a look at the Structure of the Tree of Life page.

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