Along with exploring the vast mysteries of outer space, most of us have also aspired to walk on water. Although it is physically impossible for humans to walk on water because of many reasons, we are still able to travel on the surface and even the depths of seas and oceans through the use of vehicles and technology.
On the other hand, there are certain kinds of animals that are not naturally born in bodies of water but can actually walk on it due to the various functions that they have developed through evolution and adaptation. But what are these functions and factors that enable them to traverse on water naturally? Let’s find out.
Understanding Surface Tension
Before we get to describe the animals that can walk on water, let us first discuss how liquid can carry the weight of these creatures using surface tension.
Water is made of molecules, and each has the same structure and components. These molecules are then bonded together using intermolecular attraction to form water, and the intermolecular attraction pulls particles on the highest part of the water downwards, which creates the flat surface in the liquid.
Of course, there are also molecules that make other elements like air and soil, and these molecules have different structures that will not be able to attract or bond with water molecules. Soil or land usually has a tighter intermolecular attraction that allows the particles to stand very close to each other, while air usually has looser molecules that float around in the environment. The tighter the attraction to the molecules is, the more weight it can carry, hence the reason why we can stand on land.
The molecules of liquids are not as tight as land molecules, but they are also not as loose as the molecules in the air. While land molecules usually stay in one place, water molecules move randomly in a specific space, and they can be rearranged easily whenever another set of different molecules disturbs their arrangement.
Now, let’s go back to the attraction that creates a flat surface in water. Since there is so much tension going on that pulls these molecules downwards, the pressure at the top of the water enables the particles at the top to be close to each other, creating a surface structure similar to the formation of molecules on land.
However, since only the top portion of the water molecules are arranged close to each other, it will still not be able to carry any weight that is heavier than its surface since the particles on the bottom are still loose, unlike land molecules that are tightly compressed even at the bottom of a particular space.
These molecules at the top of liquids are the ones that create surface tension, an element that is important for some animals to walk on water.
The Astonishing Water Strider
One of the fascinating animals we should talk about is the water strider, which can not only walk on water but also stay in a specific part of the liquid without even sinking.
These water striders have legs that can be longer than its body, and what’s more interesting about these insects’ legs is that it enables the water strider to distribute its weight evenly so it can match the pressure that the water’s surface tension can carry.
Another amazing aspect of the water strider is found in its body, which is covered with hydrofuge hairs that repel or shed water. Its body’s strands are a crucial part of its survival in water because, without it, their weight will eventually become heavier once they get water in the body, resulting in them sinking below the water’s surface.
If ever they go below the surface because of a powerful force, their hydrofuge hairs can trap air before they sink. Since air molecules can rise in water molecules, the air allows them to breathe underwater for a few seconds while also carrying them back up to the surface.
The Jesus Lizard
The basilisk, a species of lizard belonging to the Corytophanidae family, is often called the “Jesus lizard” because of how it is able to replicate the miracle that Jesus Christ showed in the bible, which is the ability to walk on water using two feet.
Basilisk lizards use their hind legs to run on water, and the toes on their feet have flaps between them to create tiny pockets of air that enable their feet to stay on the surface while running, similar to how the hydrofuge hairs work for water striders.
When they are on water, the lizards can reach a velocity of 1.5 meters per second while running, and they can run on up to 4.5 meters of water before they start sinking. Since they are bigger and heavier than water striders, they will not be able to stay on the water’s surface. Once they drop below the surface, however, they will just start swimming to reach land.
Research suggests that basilisk lizards have developed this ability to enhance their hunting skills. If the prey is at the other side of a pond, a basilisk will run on water to reach it instead of running around the body of water, which can take more time before it reaches its prey.
Scientists and researchers are currently studying the intricacies of these animals and see if they can apply their water walking abilities to humans. Because of the Earth’s gravity, we may not really be able to walk on water at our home planet, but the studies conducted to allow it may be useful once we discover and explore other planets in the far future, especially the ones that consist almost entirely of liquid molecules.