Diving Flies of Mono Lake (ongoing)

Alkali fly (Ephydra hians) underwater at Mono Lake, CA.

In late summer, the shores of Mono Lake, California, are bustling with small flies, Ephydra hydropyrus, which dive under water inside small air bubbles to feed. Despite Mark Twain’s charismatic description of them in his book Roughing It, we still do not understand how they are able to perform this entertaining and miraculous feat.

“You can hold them under water as long as you please–they do not mind it–they are only proud of it. When you let them go, they pop up to the surface as dry as a patent office report, and walk off as unconcernedly as if they had been educated especially with a view to affording instructive entertainment to man in that particular way.”

Using a combination of high speed videography, force measurements, scanning electron microscopy, and manipulations of water chemistry I am working towards understanding what makes these flies so unique. See this recent press article for a more detailed description: Fly makes air ‘submarine’ to survive deadly lake (Science, 2016).