Scientists Discovered Diving Flies: They Can Go Underwater Without Getting Wet

The “diving flies” of Lake Mono in California can go underwater and survive while remaining dry in the process. When they dive into the water, a bubble of air forms around them ensuring that they will stay dry and survive underwater. Here’s what we know about the diving flies.

Diving Flies
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

The diving flies have clawed feet that enable them to anchor themselves onto the bottom of the lake, which helps them crawl underwater. The first to spot the bugs’ behavior was the writer Mark Twain, who noted this behavior over a century ago.

“You can hold them under water as long as you please – they do not mind it,” he wrote.

Although the novelist wrote about diving flies 150 years ago, it hasn’t been understood until now.

According to Professor Michael Dickinson, a fly researcher at the California Institute of Technology, flies diving under the water is a “death sentence” to the vast majority of insects. Dickinson is also one of the co-authors of the study that was conducted. Also, Lake Mono doesn’t seem like a nice place for flies to live. It’s high in alkaline substances. Moreover, three times saltier compared to the ocean. Nevertheless, those insects find it attractive to live there. The difficult conditions mean that less predators are living in or around the lake which could potentially eat the flies. However, the lake has a lot of bacteria which those flies can feed on.

“It’s just a killer gig. There’s nothing underwater to eat you, and you have all the food you want,” said Professor Dickinson.

The flies are able to search their prey under the water, as their eyes have been left uncovered by the bubble that protects them. Given that the lake has many alkaline substances in it, the insects would supposedly have difficulties entering the lake, as the ions, particles that are negatively charged, are attracted to cations, positively charged particles located on the insects’ skin.

However, Professor Dickinson and his collaborator, Dr. Floris van Breugel, found that the hairs on the diving flies are quite thick. The hair is covered with water-repellent wax, which ensures the insects have aquatic abilities.

“It is such an incredibly weird thing for a fly to deliberately crawl underwater,” said Professor Dickinson.

Check out the video posted by Caltech on YouTube.