Biology / Science

Gecko Jesus

Okay, sorry, that’s a really flippant subject line. But as I was browsing around for a topic this week that’s actually a) interesting and b) something I can post about confidently, this was the best headline I saw: “Acrobatic Geckos Can Race On Water”.

Actually, they’re not the only creatures that can actually ‘walk’ on water. Insects are small enough to use the surface tension of the water — the ‘skin’ that allows you to fill a glass a little bit more than should actually be contained in the glass — while bigger animals slap the water rapidly with their feet. If you’ve ever slapped water, which sounds weird to say, but you probably have, you know that it slaps back! If you move your hand gradually through water, the water molecules easily move around your hand; if you slap it, they don’t move at first and you meet a barrier. Some animals utilise that to run — including, apparently, Asian geckos.

These geckos were actually observed during the course of experiments (how do scientists come up with this?) running over water at a speed of nearly a meter per second. Turns out that they get support from the surface tension of the water, but they also slap the water with their feet as they run. And they also semi-plane (like when a car skids on surface water, I guess!) over the surface, using their tail for a stabiliser and even a bit of propulsion.

So now you know!

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