Research finds that Alkali Flies scuba dive inside a perfectly formed bubble of air

Shane McGlaun - Nov 21, 2017
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Research finds that Alkali Flies scuba dive inside a perfectly formed bubble of air

Scientists have been studying a very strange fly that can scuba dive within a bubble of air. The fly is called the alkali fly or Ephydra hians. The odd little bug can swim below the surface of the extremely salty and alkaline Mono Lake in California where it eats algae under the water.

Scientists have been trying to figure out exactly how the fly is able to dive under the water and survive. The scientists say that the alkali flies did much better at other fly species when plunged under the water in a solution with high levels of sodium carbonate salts, which are abundant in Mono Lake. Part of how the fly can do this is by wearing a bubble of air that is fitted to the skin on its body.

That bubble doesn’t cover the eyes of the fly, so it can see well under water. Looking at the alkali fly under an electron microscope, the scientists found that the bug is extra hairy compared to other fly species. These extra hairs are believed to help the fly stay dry when under water.

The alkali fly also has a hydrocarbon-based wax on its body that is used to insulate the positively charged body of the fly from the negatively charged water particles. The scientists did find during their investigation that the flies suffered form “wetting” when the sodium levels in the water are especially high. This leads the team of researchers to fear the flies might be at risk if pollution increases in the lake.

It’s not clear exactly how the fly forms the air bubble it uses as a diving suit. The video below shows the fly as it dives under the water for its algae feast.

SOURCE: New Scientist


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