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Friday, May 3, 2002

ANIMAL TRACKER

Water strider


* Japanese name: Himeamenbo
* Scientific name: Gerris latiabdominis
* Description: Water striders are common, semiaquatic insects, with bodies that are brown on top and silver-white underneath. They have three pairs of long legs, the front pair being well-separated from the others. Water striders use their middle legs to row or skate themselves quickly across the surface of water; their hind legs trail behind, acting as a sort of rudder. Water striders are sometimes called pond skaters, which more accurately indicates where they live and how they move. The ends of their legs are covered in very fine hairs that are hydrophobic ("water hating"), so the water strider is able to walk on water. The weight of the insect leaves little dimples on the water surface.
* Where to find them: From March to October, on still ponds and lakes from Hokkaido to Kyushu.
* Food: Small insects that fall onto the water. The forelegs of water striders are sensitive to surface vibrations, which help them to detect potential prey. Water striders are also able to leap short distances from the water surface to catch flying insects. Once an insect has been caught, the water strider stabs it with its beaklike mouth and injects it with a digestive enzyme. When the insides of the prey have dissolved, the water strider sucks it dry.
* Special features: Most of the time, male water striders are in the mood to copulate. Females, however, don't always want to waste time with males when they could be feeding. So there is often a violent struggle between a male who wants to copulate and a female trying to resist. Males use special grasping genitals to latch onto any female who passes by, but females have spines on their abdomens to help dislodge unwanted males. Once a male has secured a female, he'll hold on for a long time, and male-female pairs (as in the photo) can often be seen.



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