Underwater locomotion in a terrestrial beetle: combination of surface de-wetting and capillary forces

Naoe Hosoda, Stanislav N. Gorb


For the first time, we report the remarkable ability of the terrestrial leaf beetle Gastrophysa viridula to walk on solid substrates under water. These beetles have adhesive setae on their feet that produce a secretory fluid having a crucial role in adhesion on land. In air, adhesion is produced by capillary forces between the fluid-covered setae and the substrate. In general, capillary forces do not contribute to adhesion under water. However, our observations showed that these beetles may use air bubbles trapped between their adhesive setae to walk on flooded, inclined substrata or even under water. Beetle adhesion to hydrophilic surfaces under water was lower than that in air, whereas adhesion to hydrophobic surfaces under water was comparable to that in air. Oil-covered hairy pads had a pinning effect, retaining the air bubbles on their feet. Bubbles in contact with the hydrophobic substrate de-wetted the substrate and produced capillary adhesion. Additional capillary forces are generated by the pad's liquid bridges between the foot and the substrate. Inspired by this idea, we designed an artificial silicone polymer structure with underwater adhesive properties.

  • Received June 6, 2012.
  • Accepted July 17, 2012.
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