I was in Iowa this past weekend at a meeting of some local entomologists, fun time was had by all! One of the things I got to do was take a tour of the botanical gardens. I am a total sucker for museums and gardens, so it was a great experience. Tons of cool insects in the greenhouses, gardens, and ponds. One of my favorite thingsfrom the weekend was standing at the pond watching the whirligig beetles (Gyrinidae) whirl-y away. They are fast swimmers and will dive beneath the surface to avoid predators. I was not aware that there are around 60 different species in the US, and worldwide there are and estimated 900! Wow.
What separates these beetles from everything else is that they have a divided eye so they can see above and below the water at the same time. This makes them look like they have four eyes instead of two. Even more amazing, research published in 2014 showed that the the over water and under water eyes are anatomically different. The top eyes are covered with “maze like nanostructures” while the bottom eyes have “anti-wetting” properties. Science is awesome. Research has also been done on their group behavior, showing trade offs of having more protection in a group, but less access to food.
The larvae look fuzzy to me with all their gills on the sides of their abdomen. They spend all instars in the water and crawl out when they are ready to pupate. Both adults and larvae are predators and sometimes scavengers.
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