Slip on your rubber boots and get close to the ground — pond marvels abound. Get down near the muck, where you’re eye to eye with a duck. At the water’s edge, soon you’ll see some of Missouri’s most interesting creatures performing amazing feats.
Water striders zip across the water as easily as you run through the park. They spread out their weight so they can skate across the surface of the water without breaking through. Tiny velvety hairs on their legs trap air bubbles to help them float, too. They use their middle legs to move, while their front and back legs steer like rudders. Water striders are harmless and fun to watch as they scurry around, feeding on insects that fall into the water.
Around and around they go, like mini bumper cars. Surprisingly, these button-sized beetles never run into each other thanks to stubby antennae, which act as motion sensors. Look closely and you’ll see they have big, round, compound eyes like a fly, except whirligigs have four!
Central newts are true pond marvels. After hatching, central newts spend several months growing in the water with feathery gills (shown at left). By late summer, they lose their gills, form lungs, and transform into reddish-brown “efts”
Newt efts spend several years living on land in wooded areas near fishless ponds. When they are larger (and more likely to survive), newts return to water, where they develop into their olivegreen adult form.
Imagine trapping a giant air bubble against your body so you could breathe and swim underwater longer. Amazingly, diving beetles can do just that. They carry a breathing bubble so they can stay on the hunt and use their hairy back legs to paddle around. These fierce beetles attack small fish, tadpoles, and frogs. Then, they use sharp jaws to inject chemicals that turn the prey into gooey, slurpable shakes.
Water striders, whirligig beetles, central newts, and diving beetles are just a few of the incredible critters living in a pond near you. See how many more you can discover. Why stay dry when there are cool critters to spy?
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill