NY Times Singles out Patek Research

An August 8 article in the New York Times cast a spotlight on Sheila Patek’s research.  At center stage was the larva of the gall midge, a tiny maggot about the size of a grain of rice.  While perhaps not as accomplished as Simone Biles, the larvae are able to jump more than 30 times their own body length.  Curling into a circle, they use special fibers on head and tail to create a latch against which they build up force.  When the latch lets go, off they fly.  

Mike Wise of Roanoke College first noticed the larva’s gymnastic ability, but lacked the precision tools to investigate further.  He brought the problem to Sheila Patek, who used video cameras filming at up to 20,000 frames per second and a scanning electron microscope to solve the problem.  You can get the full scoop at the Journal of Experimental Biology doi:10.1242/jeb.201129.