Sea otters are one of the few insects that live in the marine environment. Scientists are now studying how the animal is stoathened in order to develop more hydrodynamic hulls. Similar to otters living in fresh water, sea otters can glide on the surface of the water with their slender legs. Even when beaten by rain and waves, it stays dry and can quickly surface when submerged.
Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia, in collaboration with a Us scientist, are beginning to study how to better understand how the insect shakes off liquid in the water. To do this, they captured two species of sea otters— open ocean inhabiting the Halobates germanus and coastal H. Hayanus — they kept it in aquariums.
Using techniques such as electron microscopes, scientists found that the sea otters had hairs of different shapes and sizes on their bodies. The smallest of them is shaped like a golf club, with its front end tightly huddled together, while below is a slightly spacing shaft.
Such a design would prevent water from passing through the front, causing a layer of air trapped around the worm’s body. Even if the sea otters are pushed underwater, the buoyancy of that layer of air will cause them to bounce straight back to the surface. In addition, the researchers observed that when combing themselves, the insect silates a highly waterproof wax that covers the body.
Inspired by hair and wax, scientists are now working on a hull coating that will make it easier for ships to navigate the water, while also preventing the creation of stiletto creatures such as barnacles.
The study was described in a recent paper published in the journal Scientific Reports.