Meet the Darkling Beetle

Fig 1 A: O. unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: S. gracilipes, and D: P. cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Fig 1 A: Onymacris unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: Stenocara gracilipes, and D: Physterna cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Elytra Structures Fig 2 A: O. unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: S. gracilipes, and D: P. cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Elytra Structures Fig 2 A: O. unguicularis, B: O. laeviceps, C: S. gracilipes, and D: P. cribripes (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Fig 4 Fog basking posture of Onymacris unguicularis (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

Fig 4 Fog basking posture of Onymacris unguicularis (from Norgaard and Dacke 2010)

The Namib desert is inhabited by a number of fantastic organisms that have adaptations for desert life. In particular, there are a few tenebrionids or Darkling beetles which call this locale their home. Beetles in the desert need to collect water and while some dig trenches others bask in the fog.

Most beetles have smooth elytra, but ones that bask in fog are covered in raised bumps and are also hydrophobic. Fog basking is akin to basking in the sun to increase body temperature, but in this case the beetle uses the elytra to collect water. The increased surface area and hydrophobicity of the elytra increase the amount of water that can be extracted from the fog. This water is then funneled to the head of the beetle as a result of the adopted head-down stance.

Watch this behavior in action below:

This adaptation is so cool that humans are trying to adopt the technology to make a self-filling water bottle!

Read more in the paper below:

Norgaard, T., and M. Dacke 2010. Fog-basking behaviour and water collection efficiency in Namib Desert Darkling beetles. Front. Zool. 7:23.

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

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