Research

Water Skiing Beetles

Waterlily beetles employ an unusual method of getting around: they skim across the water surface. The beetles are mostly covered in tiny hairs that help make their body hydrophobic (water-repellent) – a common adaptation for insects that spend their time sitting on the water’s surface – but the beetles also have hydrophilic claws on their legs that help anchor them to the water’s surface. When they need to move quickly, the beetles lean upright and start flapping their wings, creating thrust that helps push them along the interface. Between water’s viscosity and drag from the waves the insect generates, it has to expend a lot of energy for this method of travel – more than these insects do flying in air – but researchers suspect that staying at the surface could remain beneficial for the beetles because it’s easier to locate their floating food sources this way. (Image credit: H. Mukundarajan et al., source; via New Scientist)

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