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Water striders are small insects that are adapted for life on top of still water, using surface tension to their advantage so they can “walk on water.”
Water acts different at the surface. Water molecules are attracted to each other and like to stay together, especially on the surface where there is only air above. The attraction between water molecules creates tension and a very delicate membrane. Water striders walk on this membrane.
Water striders are about a half-inch long with a thin body and three sets of legs. The water strider's secret is its legs. The legs have tiny hairs that repel water and capture air. By repelling water, the tiny water striders stand on the water’s surface and the captured airs allows them to float and move easily.
Water striders can be seen on the surface of calm or slow-moving water throughout the continental U.S. They prefer ponds, vernal pools, and marshes.
The water strider's shorter front legs are used for catching and holding onto food. Water striders eat insects and larvae on the surface of water, such as mosquitoes and fallen dragonflies.
Scientists are studying the legs of water striders in hopes of making materials that easily repel water and help objects move faster over water.
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