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Water Skiing Beetles

March 11, 2016

Specialized wings and claws propel a beetle across water at breakneck speeds.



High speed water beetles. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The water lily beetle zooms across ponds by beating its wings, which blast it forward like a turbo- charged water skier. Stanford researcher Manu Prakash says they accelerate so quickly, they seem to disappear.

MANU PRAKASH (Stanford University):

So when you experience it you watch almost the trail they left behind, like a ghost line on the surface of water, as compared to seeing the actual insect.


In the Journal of Experimental Biology, Prakash and his colleagues report that rather than skimming smoothly along the surface, the beetle’s rapidly beating wings push them downward to create a bouncing motion. Specially adapted claws grip the underside of the water surface to keep them from becoming airborne. It’s basic research, but could eventually lead to new bio-inspired water transport. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.