How the Namib Desert beetle pulls water from the air
What if we could extract water from the air? Technology like this would change the lives of billions of people who are currently struggling to access clean, safe water. But is it possible? Our hero on this journey is an unexpected character: a beetle. And if we could find out their secrets to collecting water, it would fundamentally change the lives of people all over the world.
How will a beetle change the world? This story is a perfect example of how even our smallest neighbors can inspire us with the amazing technology of nature.
Meet him the beetle! (Sorry.)
How the hell is a beetle able to get water out of the air? And why wouldn’t he just go to… let’s say… a puddle for a drink?
No bigger than an almond, these beetles from the Namib Desert evolved in a very special environment, where the only source of water exists in the air.
It is a place called “cool coastal desert”, where the cold currents in the wbeyond (in this case) the Atlantic Ocean off the southwest coast of Africa prevent the air in the region from collecting the moisture necessary for precipitation, which means there is very little rain near the side. Without frequent rain, the wind blows the sand in the ginormous dunes which sometimes towers over 1000 fresht big all along the coast. (One of these dunes in the Namib Desert is even nicknamed “Big Daddy”!)
In any given year, areas of the Namib Desert will receive only between 5 and 85 millimeters of rain in total. But because of the cool currents of the Atlantic Ocean, water gets to the plants and animals that live there in a different way.
In the morning, as the air just above the ocean cools, fog forms and the wind blows it over land. Now our beetle buds kick in, collecting water in a process called “fog”. As they walk towards the top of a sand dune, they orient their body just to the right, let the water collect on their backs and roll it straight into their mouths! For decades now, we’ve been trying to figure out why these beetles give them this unique super power of drinking without water.
“It’s literally like trying to grab a cloud and pin it,” describes the host of our today’s Science Insider video, as they introduce us to how these humble thirsty beetles inspire everyone. a wave of new innovations. It’s a fascinating look at a mystery that is being solved, and the inspiration we can glean by taking a closer look at those with whom we share this world.
Check it out!
It is an innovation that is inspired by nature and that can be added to the man-made structures that already exist!
Science Magazine even noted that in addition to turning the exterior of the refugee tents into super fog-collecting machines, they’re also thinking of a self-filling water bottle. Imagine that. Fill your water bottle by yourself? Read more about this in an article by Eva Frederick, here.
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“If we understand the beetle game, then we can play it differently for a greater effect.” – Dr Hunter King, Assistant Professor of Polymer Science at Akron University
When we see how other creatures have evolved to thrive, we may find ourselves working better in our own environments to accomplish what we need. It is not about taking the Earth’s resources. Rather, it is about studying what is already happening, then exploiting it to bring about great innovations, naturally.
Another great example is a bacteria that naturally evolved to eat plastic. Oh yes, it has developed a liking for our manufactured containers, and scientists are studying how to replicate the system for great impact. Check out this exciting way to learn from nature in this article:
As many creatures as there are on this planet, there are 10 times more lessons than we can learn. So, as always, stay open to new possibilities. You never know what wisdom a little bug can bring to you.