Mono Lake in California is an inhospitable place for most marine life, due to its hyper-salinity and high concentrations of the alkaline substances sodium carbonate and borax. However, the species of fly Ephydra hians have long been seen diving under the surface, feeding and laying eggs. Caltech researchers published their recent discovery, revealing how this is possible in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Most insects have hydrophobic adaptations in order to survive rain and dew, but due to negative ions in the lake, this “wettest water in the world” can break through the insects’ waxy hairs much more easily than fresh water. Observations of the Mono Lake flies have revealed their unique mechanism that allows them to survive this death-trap — the utilization of a protective air bubbles surrounding their bodies.
This bubble is possible due to the phenomenon of superhydrophobicity, brought about by the particularly hairy and wax-coated fly bodies. It was also observed that for flies to maintain underwater visibility, the bubble excludes the eyes.