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The Water Boatman’s Willy

The things you learn, listening to podcasts on a Sunday morning. The Blue Whale the largest mammal is the loudest creature on earth, no great surprise there. But this little insect, the Water Boatman, which is just 2 mm long can sometimes produce an ear-splitting 99.2 decibels by rubbing his penis against his abdomen. 

On average it serenades at 78.9db which is equivalent to a passing freight train. When you consider his member is thinner than a human hair, its relative sound per body size easily gives the Water Boatman something to boast about – don’t you think?

His stridulation is so loud that you and I can hear the noise coming from the bottom of a freshwater pond or slow running stream when strolling alongside.   Given that 99% of sound is lost when transferring from water to air, it is quite a remarkable cricket-like chirp that we can hear.  The Water Boatman keeps a pocket of air along its front side using microscopic hairs which helps it to breathe. According to researcher Dr. James Windmill.  “This could induce a complex micro acoustic environment with reflections and refraction due to impedance differences between air and water.” 

The male tries to seduce prospective partners with this racket. They often do so in large choruses to attract the silent females. The females lay single eggs after mating that remain attached to the plants or rocks before they hatch into nymphs. The nymph gets its wings when it molts for the final time. It comes to the surface to fill its airbags, and then, (if male) he joins the choir.

You have got to wonder … why this cacophony attracts the silent but ‘fairer’ sex; perhaps the females are just a tad hard of hearing?


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