Surface Qualities 

A bug that walks on water - but from the wrong side up.

After dark, the Watagan Mountains in New South Wales, Australia, can appear otherworldly to anyone with a headlamp. But things turned stranger than usual in 2015 when John Gould, a behavioral ecologist in Australia, was surveying sandpaper frogs in the forests' ephemeral pools for his dissertation.

Dr. Gould was crouching upon a pool, seeking frogs, when he saw a pea-size bug that he thought had fallen into the water. As he peered closer, Dr. Gould realized he was not watching a right-side-up bug struggling to escape the water, but an upside-down beetle in full control of its life and current situation.

It skittered along the undersurface of the water as if in a parallel world, the kneeling Dr. Gould beneath him.

The surface of the pool was immaculately still, nary a wind ripple in sight, and Dr. Goud pulled out his phone to record the water scavenger beetle's nonchalant ceiling crawl.

Because the footage was unrelated to his research, Dr. Goud stored the beetle video in his files and did not return to it for several years as he finished his doctorate. In June, at least, Dr. Gould and Jose Valdez, a wildlife ecologist in Germany, published the first detailed documentation of this behavior in beetles.

The bug in question has been identified as a water scavenger beetle, probably in the family of Hydrophilidae.

The water scavenger's movements differ from the traditional way to talk on water, which is on the top of it. Sea and water striders row themselves across the surface of the water with oarlike legs.

With the help of surface tension, some geckos can run across the water by undulating their bodies and slapping the surface of the water with their legs. [ Sabrina Imbler ]


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