Survival against the Odds

How a little beetle manages to create water out of thin air!

Where there is a will, there’s a way — goes the pithy that we have been brought up on. And no one better than this little critter to prove it.

The Namib Desert beetle (Stenocara gracilipes) is a magician — it creates water out of apparently nothing!

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The Namib “Vast Space” is a coastal desert in southern Africa.

One of the most arid (dry) places on earth, the Namib desert receives only about half-an-inch of rainfall in a year,

The hero of this story is the Namib Beetle (Stenocara gracilipes). This small critter works magic to ensure it gets the water it needs.

The beetle’s back is characterised by two things:

  1. The water-loving bumps (hydrophilic) that break the fog to result in droplets that get stuck and flow down
  2. Water-repelling troughs (hydrophobic) that route the water towards the head of the insect

The beetle gets into position to ‘milk the fog’ by standing at at a 45 Degree angle, on the ridge of sand dunes, facing the breeze. Droplets start getting formed and further pressed down by the wind and the effect of gravity, form bigger droplets by cumulation. These drops then flow through the troughs, straight into the waiting jaws of the Namib Beetles, slaking its thirst!

Here’s a BBC documentary that covered this (~ at the 1:00 minute mark) —

This beetle has inspired several inventions till date to obtain fresh water. Self-filling water bottle, Refugee camp tents with hydrophilic surfaces and mist-capturing nets — all these are examples of how we are able to obtain water out of seemingly thin air, enabling survival and farming in arid areas.

Nature always has a few tricks up its sleeve to solve its problems — more we observe, the more we can apply some of these simple, yet effective strategies to solve our problems!

So, the next time you think that the odds are stacked up against you….You just need to immerse yourself to finding a new approach! Its Natural!

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