Superhydrophobicity and size reduction enabled Halobates (Insecta: Heteroptera, Gerridae) to colonize the open ocean
AuthorsMahadik, G. A.
Hernandez Sanchez, Jose Federico
Farinha, A. S.
Thoroddsen, Sigurdur T
Duarte, Carlos M.
KAUST DepartmentBiological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division
Environmental Science and Engineering Program
High-Speed Fluids Imaging Laboratory
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering (BESE) Division, Red Sea Research Center (RSRC), Thuwal, 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Biological and Environmental Science and Engineering (BESE) Division, Water Desalination and Reuse Center (WDRC), Thuwal, 23955-6900, Saudi Arabia.
Marine Science Program
Mechanical Engineering Program
Physical Science and Engineering (PSE) Division
Red Sea Research Center (RSRC)
Water Desalination and Reuse Research Center (WDRC)
Online Publication Date2020-05-08
Print Publication Date2020-12
Permanent link to this recordhttp://hdl.handle.net/10754/662806
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AbstractDespite the remarkable evolutionary success of insects at colonizing every conceivable terrestrial and aquatic habitat, only five Halobates (Heteroptera: Gerridae) species (~0.0001% of all known insect species) have succeeded at colonizing the open ocean – the largest biome on Earth. This remarkable evolutionary achievement likely required unique adaptations for them to survive and thrive in the challenging oceanic environment. For the first time, we explore the morphology and behavior of an open-ocean Halobates germanus and a related coastal species H. hayanus to understand mechanisms of these adaptations. We provide direct experimental evidence based on high-speed videos which reveal that Halobates exploit their specialized and self-groomed body hair to achieve extreme water repellence, which facilitates rapid skating and plastron respiration under water. Moreover, the grooming behavior and presence of cuticular wax aids in the maintenance of superhydrophobicity. Further, reductions of their body mass and size enable them to achieve impressive accelerations (~400 ms−2) and reaction times (~12 ms) to escape approaching predators or environmental threats and are crucial to their survival under harsh marine conditions. These findings might also inspire rational strategies for developing liquid-repellent surfaces for drag reduction, water desalination, and preventing bio-fouling.
CitationMahadik, G. A., Hernandez-Sanchez, J. F., Arunachalam, S., Gallo, A., Cheng, L., Farinha, A. S., … Duarte, C. M. (2020). Superhydrophobicity and size reduction enabled Halobates (Insecta: Heteroptera, Gerridae) to colonize the open ocean. Scientific Reports, 10(1). doi:10.1038/s41598-020-64563-7
SponsorsWe thank Dr. Virginia A. Unkefer from Publication Services and Researcher Support at KAUST for editing the manuscript and Xavier Pita, Scientific illustrator at KAUST for enhancing Figures 1–3 and for creating Figure 4.
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media LLC
CollectionsArticles; Biological and Environmental Sciences and Engineering (BESE) Division; Red Sea Research Center (RSRC); Environmental Science and Engineering Program; Marine Science Program; Physical Science and Engineering (PSE) Division; Mechanical Engineering Program; Water Desalination and Reuse Research Center (WDRC)
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