Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A Guest Post by Jay Hosler

Jay Hosler is taking over this blog for the day to tell us about Lucy, a character from his forthcoming graphic novel, Last of the Sandwalkers. Thank you, Jay!

Character Name: Lucy
Species: Stenocara dentata
Length: 15 mm
Color: Black.
Habitat: desert
Superpower: Pulling water from the desert air

Imagine you are lost in the dunes of the Namibian desert. It’s sweltering, your thirsty and the canteen you brought with you is bone dry. For anyone else it would be a dire situation, but not for you. You hunker down and wait for the morning fog to roll in and then you stand on your head and collect water on your backside. At least, that’s what you do if you’re the fog-basking beetle Stenocara dentata.

This resourceful little beetle has a remarkable adaptation on its elytra. Elytra are hardened outer wings that protect a more delicate set of wings underneath. When most beetles want to fly, the lift their elytra and their wings unfold. Not so with Stenocara. Their elytra are fused shut and they can’t get airborne, but what is lost in aeronautical ability is more than made up in hydrodynamic hijinx.

The mechanism they use to collect water is a marvel of evolution. Stenocara’s elytra are covered in several little bumps.

In addition, the elytra are also covered in a thin, waxy film. This layer of wax acts as a sealant to prevent water from escaping or entering the beetle’s body. However, there are small spots on top of each of the elytra bumps where the wax is absent. At these wax-free places, water can condense from the air and form droplets. Stenocara can stand on their head in the morning fog and allow water droplets to form on their backs. When the water droplets get too big, they roll off the bumps, across the waxy elytra and down into the beetles mouth. You can watch them in action in this video from the BBC.

In Last of the Sandwalkers, Lucy is a quick-witted, inventive Stenocara dentata who leads the team on their adventure into the wild. Her mouth can get her in over her head sometimes, but her brain can usually get her out of hot water.

Borrow Last of the Sandwalkers from your school or public library. Whenever possible, please support independent bookshops. 

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