The kinematics of locomotion was investigated in the aquatic larvae of Dixella aestivalis and Hydrobius fuscipes with the aid of high-speed video recordings. Both insects are able to skate on the surface of the water using the dorso-apical tracheal gill as an adhesive organ or ‘foot’. Progress relies on the variable adhesion of the foot between ‘slide’ and ‘hold’ periods of the locomotory cycle. The flexural body movements underlying skating in D. aestivalis can be derived directly from the figure-of-eight swimming mechanism used in underwater swimming. The latter is shown to be similar to figure-of-eight swimming in chironomid larvae. This study shows how the deployment of a ‘foot’ enables simple side-to-side flexural movements of the body to be converted into effective locomotion at the air-water interface.

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