A Mosquito's Version Of Surfing.

 Watching the heavy rain from the shelter of a convenient porch while the lighting lights up the dark sky and we count one and two and … eight and boom, the thunder rolls out in a majestic display of nature’s power, the plight of small insects caught out a ways from shelter come to mind.

Dickerson et al from Georgia Tech. also worried about this and focused their attention on mosquitos in their recent paper in the Proceedings of The National Academy of Science (1,2). Perhaps the plight of mosquitos might not be at the top of everybody’s list, but they are small and they are insects too.

The experimental kit of choice was a high-speed video camera, but sitting with a large number of mosquitos in nice humid conditions, waiting for a thunderstorm would be taking the scientific method too far. Instead, they took a group of mosquitos, threw droplets of water at them, and photographed the collisions.

The expectation was from a simply engineering picture that a small mosquito, being hit by a large mass of water would have a very hard time of it. After watching the video, Dr. Hu and his colleagues realized that the principals of Tai Chi were in play.

The small, light mosquitos just went with the drop instead of resisting it. They were carried along in a drop–insect combination until it could work its way free from the drop and fly off before the collision with the ground.

So it is a mosquito’s version of surfing where they drop in and kick out before the big crash. Every now and then there will be an unexpected wipeout, but there are a lot more mosquitos and drops to drop into than would result in a change to the gene pool.

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