By Jo Cleland

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The movement of the long, narrow wings, with a spot of white at the tips was, to the eye, a circular revolving whirl, with the needle-sized body trailing behind. ” This damselfly revealed its kinship to Ola Fincke’s giant damselflies by its habit of feeding on spiders. “From under leaves or from the heart of widespread webs, good-sized spiders were snatched. ” In the coastal waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans—and even hundreds of miles offshore—water striders of the genus Halobates skate on the waves.

In the coastal waters of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans—and even hundreds of miles offshore—water striders of the genus Halobates skate on the waves. They are among the few hundred insect species that live in or on the seas. But why Where They Live 41 have so few of the 900,000 known insects invaded this vast environment? The seas, after all, cover about two thirds of the globe and, mostly in the coastal shallows, offer multitudes of opportunities for an animal such as an insect to make a living—as ecologists would put it, they offer a multitude of ecological niches.

These creatures eat each other, the decomposing leaves and the few dead insects that fall or are blown into the tree hole, and also the bacteria and fungi that do the decomposing. They also feed on one-celled algae, other microorganisms, and tiny particles of detritus that they filter from the water. In 1974, Norman Fashing of William and Mary College published an article on a new species of aquatic mite that he had collected at several sites in the eastern United States. This 32 Where They Live tiny mite, barely visible to the naked eye, lives only in waterfilled tree holes and feeds on the mass of decomposing leaves and other organic matter at the bottom of the hole.

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Achoo! by Jo Cleland


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