Crystal and her Water Beetles

[Emily] Hey! We’re here with Crystal, back at the field museum Crystal, what is it that you do here? [Crystal] I am the Collection Manager of Insects at the Field Museum of Natural History [Emily] You’re an entomologist
[Crystal] I am!
[Emily] You study insects [Crystal] Yeah!
[Emily] What is your area of focus? [Crystal] So, I study water beetles, specifically I study a group called the Riffle Beetles And the Riffle Beetles are the greatest beetles on Earth (Emily laughs) [Emily] You don’t seem… You don’t think that might be a bit of a biased statement?
[Crystal] I don’t [Emily] What’s so great about Riffle Beetles? Also, when ever I hear the word “Riffle Beetles” I feel like there should be a guitar riff, like a (imitates guitar riff)
(Crystal laughs) [Emily] Beetles! [Crystal] Riffle Beetles live underwater and they carry a bubble of air with them and they hold that air bubble for the rest of their life [Emily] Really!?
[Crystal] And that can be up to five years or so [Emily] You put me underwater with one bubble, I’ll probably die [Crystal] Part of it is that they’re so tiny, that they’re actually able to use some of the natural properties of water in order to breathe There’s lots of different kinds of air in the air bubble, There’s oxygen, there’s carbon dioxide, there’s nitrogen And as they use the oxygen in the air bubble, The pressure of the oxygen goes down and it’s less than is in the surrounding water, And so oxygen passively diffuses back into that air bubble [Emily] Whaaaaaat? [Crystal] So, as they use oxygen and give off carbon dioxide in the air bubble, The concentration of the carbon dioxide in the air bubble increases compared to the surrounding water The carbon dioxide then diffuses back out into the water [Emily] What would be the evolutionary imperative for an organism to want to undergo so many adaptations that allows this to happen? Like what’s so great about living in the water? Why do the beetles want to–
[Crystal] This is why I work on water beetles!
(Emily laughs) [Crystal] It was just an empty niche There was nothing there. There were no beetles living there
[Emily] Yeah [Crystal] And nothing eating the periphyton and so these beetles, I guess, saw that as an opportunity And they went underwater And what’s actually cool is that there’s closely related groups That will go into the water but they won’t stay underwater
[Emily] Oh! [Crystal] So, you can kind of almost see that gradient from life entirely out of water to a life entirely underwater Where they never leave [Emily] Yeah. It reminds me of, like, whales, you know, coming– Ancient relatives of whales– came out of the ocean and then at some point They were like, “you know, wasn’t so bad in there” [Crystal] Right!
[Emily] And then they like
[Crystal] Exactly!
[Emily] Evolved to go back to the ocean [Crystal] Exactly! And what’s really cool is that you can see this happen over and over and over again in the Riffle Beetles [Emily] You were just on a collecting trip to New Zealand [Crystal] I was! We collected all around the south island, so we traveled from stream to stream Sampling each stream looking for different populations of water beetles [Emily] Why is it so important to go to so many different streams, Like why don’t you just go to one New Zealand stream and “oh, that’s good” [Crystal] Because every stream has a different population So, you can imagine a watershed, it’s like a hand, with lots of little fingers that come out And each of those little fingers is a stream and they all come together into one larger stream and that’s a watershed. You might have another watershed over here, maybe there’s a mountain in the middle And those two are separate And so, they might have separate evolutionary paths So, what we can do is we can study all those populations We can study their morphology, so, how they look. We can use their DNA to try to figure out how they’re related, How far into the past or how deep into the past they separated, So, you might be able to match that up with different geological events [Emily] You mentioned how important water beetles are for learning about the health of New Zealand streams But, they also live all over the world [Crystal] Actually, we know a lot more about the water beetles in the US than we do about the water beetles in New Zealand In fact, we had a curator here named Harry Nelson who worked on the same group of water beetles that I do And he geo-referenced every place he collected on a map This is just an example of one of the maps that Harry Nelson had put together And what’s really cool about it is he actually outlined all of the watersheds in Illinois on this map in different colors And now, we can actually use Geographic Information System, or GIS, we can use Google Earth In fact, you can go on Google Earth right now and you can put all of your collecting localities on Google Earth right now [Emily] Oh!
[Crystal] If you really wanted to
[Emily] That time I found a dead raccoon on the side of the road and brought it in? [Crystal] Put it on the map!
[Emily] Yeah! [Emily] Streams are super important environments, and when I think of, like, when you’re trying to conserve an area A lot of times streams are kinda neglected You know, you can put a border around a national park or a protected area But the stream goes in and and the stream comes out And there are opportunities for invasive species and pollution to, like, go into that stream Are water beetles another one of those bioindicator species? [Crystal] They are! They actually make a pretty good bioindicator, because a lot of species of Riffle Beetles At least, we’ve seen in North America, that a lot of species of Riffle Beetles Will be sensitive to things like paper-mill pollution, Rayon-plant pollution, changes in pH, It’s nice to conserve them for their inherent value, like, “Oh, this is a species of water beetle that only lives in this stream or watershed” But, really we can use them as a tool to determine water quality [Emily] You were obviously super stoked about seeing all these water beetles in New Zealand Was there anything else that you saw that was also really exciting? [Crystal] Yeah! So, one of my favorite insects that I saw in New Zealand, it’s called the Blepharcerid [Emily] What?
[Crystal, slowly] Blephariceridae [Emily] Blepharcerid
[Crystal] There you go [Emily] Sounds like someone sneezed, like (imitates sneezing) [Crystal] These Blepharcerids are a type of fly and they’re unlike any fly you’ve ever seen before Their larvae actually live in the coldest, cleanest, most riffily streams there are, so right where you find Riffle Beetles [Emily] Oh!
[Crystal] What they do is they’ve got little suction cups on their body and they suction cup to rocks in streams What’s really fun is that when you’re collecting in the stream, you’re disturbing all the critters in the stream And what happens is they get disturbed too and then they float off and then they stick to your legs [Emily] The little suctions!
[Crystal] And you have little suctions cups sticking to your legs, it’s really cute [Emily] It sounds like an adorable maggot [Crystal] It’s an adorable maggot [Emily] ‘Cause that’s what they are! They’re fly larvae
[Crystal] That’s their new common name: The Adorable Maggots [Emily] The Adorable Maggots, I like that.
[Crystal] If I had to work on a fly, I would work on Blepharcerids [Emily] Yeah, I think I would too I probably… There’s probably no chance I’ll do that, but I’ll just look at pictures of them [Crystal] Okay
[Emily] Little videos Transcribed by Ethan M.

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100 thoughts on “Crystal and her Water Beetles

  1. Another awesome entomology video, especially about aquatic insects <3!
    However, lots of mayflies and some caddisflies also feed on periphyton. They are probably more predated than Elmidae, so maybe riffle beetles are more successful in this niche, but they are not the only bugs eating periphyton.

  2. Votes needed for Webby

  3. I love this channel so much. High quality video's, good editing, some awesome scientific insides, women in science, every video is uniquely, weirdly funny and it's biology! ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. +thebrainscoop Since the beetles do breathe oxygen, would they be able to survive if accidentally taken out of their watery home? Similarly, if their stream suddenly dried up because of blockage or diversion or some other sudden event could they survive breathing regular air? I know that their food of choice would die out, but could they feed on anything else if the water dries up?

  5. The Beetle breathing from O2 that is diffusing into their Bubble is definitely the coolest thing I learned today!

  6. I've been watching since the Chicago Adventure and I still watch to the very end just to hear … It still has brains on it.

  7. The Brain Scoop: the only YouTube channel where you always watch all the way to the end cause you HAVE TO HEAR HER SAY IT.

  8. Love it!! Excitement is contagious and inspiring. Is someone at the Field studying the adorable maggot? Or perhaps at one of you partners?
    Thank you so much for the video, been missing you (and Anna).
    ps: have any volunteers or employees made any inroads into the basement 'collection' at the Montana museum? As a retired federal archivist I emphasized with your pain in having to pass that on and just hope. Take the best of care

  9. Well, I would have thought that 'partial pressure' would have been the best term to go for, in which case 'pressure' is a kind of incorrect but more similar-sounding term?!

  10. man i love you guys lol i learned some interesting stuff, all with a smile on my face, bit of laughter ๐Ÿ˜Š thanks so much for the vid!

  11. 1:20 Actually, Crystal was right! Gases diffuse between the sides of a permeable membrane (like the skin of a bubble) based on their partial pressures, not concentrations.

  12. Recently became a nerdfighter and have been voraciously watching related channels in doing my best to catch up on the materials I'm interested in. Truly enjoy your style and methods. It's a good mix of being varied and genuine with attention to both entertainment and accuracy. Wish you the best of luck to you and yours.

  13. Crystal's cute, and I love her level of enthusiasm describing her topics of knowledge – she'd make a great (personal) teacher. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Pressure is actually quite correct, the partial pressure goes down with the concentration, and it's that pressure difference that drive the gas flow.

  15. I can't help it (blame my husband) – when I heard "riffle beetle" I immediately expected, "When beetles battle beetles in a puddle paddle battle and the beetle battle puddle is a puddle in a bottle, they call this…" Also, georeferencing is awesome. Absolutely love that map Harry Nelson created.

  16. I always thought that tiger beetles were the best beetles, but boy was I wrong. That whole oxygen diffusion thing sold me.
    Water beetles are love, Water beetles are life

  17. Love the entomology episodes, glad to see another one and hope to see more in the future! Would love to see an episode on more beetles, specifically cetoniids as they're one of the most colorful and diverse beetles in the world, in my opinion. They vary so much in size, shape, color, habitat, what they eat, etc. And they're found like everywhere! Why not do an episode on them? lol

  18. I have to say Crystal really makes a compelling argument for riffle beetles being the coolest organism. I'm so glad I watched this.

  19. These women are very intelligent and adorable. There's a childlike enthusiastic innocence they have, It almost seems like the world in its ugliness hasn't gotten to them.

  20. Debates on suggesting a video with a maggot expert
    Realizes my phobia is too severe and I would probably cry and avoid the video even though I want to get over this fear

  21. I know this channel gets a lot of traffic and a lot of comments but I wanted to say…."The Brain Scoop" is the best source of REAL science and biology available. I love to see REAL people doing REAL science, experiencing nature and being excited about it.

    If anyone on The Brain Scoop team reads this (Emily, Brandon, Sheheryar and Crystal) please know that there are some curious minds in Kentucky that love what you are doing.

    BTW Riffle Beetles are awesome!

  22. Loved this! As someone who works in watersheds, I also want to emphasize that the land surrounding the visible water is a main part of the larger definition of a watershed. Water travels over and under/through these areas of land, eventually collecting/"shedding" into small streams, bigger streams, and into lakes & larger bodies of water ultimately. But in the context of these awesome water beetles, I understand the focus on visible, flowing water. ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. 1:10, saying that "pressure" of O2 goes down inside the bubble is fine, incidentally. "Partial pressure" is total pressure multiplied by concentration of an individual gas species and is commonly used in engineering for phase balances just like this. Of course concentration can also be used, it is just a matter of being consistent with units.

  24. By the way, Partial pressure is directly correlated to concentration by the ideal gas law. So oxygen pressure and oxygen concentration can be used interchangeably

  25. How is there not a ring on that woman's finger :O

  26. Pressure of O2 is not wrong, just not quite accurate. She should have talked about partial pressure, that is equivalent to concentration for gasses.

  27. This is just…fascinating. There are topics that I am interested in and would like to know more about. And then there are topics I didn't even know existed, but then I hear about them on The Brain Scoop and fall in love with them. This is one of the latter.

  28. that is a woman who loves what she does, i think i had a goofy smile on my face watching her smile and get so passionate about her water beetles haha what a great scientist

  29. I have a question, my friend enlightened me that there are two basic types of water beetles..
    these are True Water beetles and obviously the non-true..
    so, on where do the Riffle beetles belong?

  30. Hi! there any chance that you will put subtitles in Spanish? this is one of the best videos I've seen! ^^

  31. Fantastic! Crystal, I had never before heard of your job until this video and It's so cool! Does anyone know what the most common pet beetle is?

  32. I heard "Harry Nilsson" and I was like yeah, I bet that guy can't live if living is without water beetles

  33. A friend of yours from the past . . .

    UMZM 18800, maybe your own handwriting.

  34. Emily, I just wanted to let you know that you are absolutely amazing! you're adorable, beautiful and your energy and enthusiasm excites me to want to learn more. You and your show remind me of the shows i used to watch growing up on animal planet. Your passion for this stuff is so palpable and i love watching your show. I hope to come visit the Field Museum someday soon and i'd love to pick your brain (hehe not scoop) about all of the amazing things that have happened for you! Keep up the amazing work and Stay curious! ๐Ÿ˜€

  35. I love it when academians have such an infectious enthusiasm for a single, obscure species. I had a female professor who taught a marine biology class who's favorite animal and speciality was multi-segmented and predatory polychaete worms.

  36. Well, you didn't make a mistake: when the concentration of a gas in a mixture decreases its partial pressure also decreases and vice versa.

  37. It's actually fine to talk about (partial) pressure of a gas component instead of concentration. The two terms are more or less equivalent. And the concept of pressure is actually helpful to understand how diffusion works.

  38. what is the bug at 5:31, I want to know because I once found one in my swim suit, after it had bit me in a "sensitive" area

  39. what is the bug at 5:31, I want to know because I once found one in my swim suit, after it had bit me in a "sensitive" area.

    EDIT: so I figured out what it was the larval form of that

  40. Holy cow, I'm impressed that anyone was able to figure out that blepharicerid flies are flies at all! Good job, researchers

  41. I think pressure is actually a correct term. Partial pressure is the pressure of a single gas within a mixture of gasses, so it's another way to measure concentration. It's used a lot in measuring diffusion.

  42. The Brain Scoop is one of the good things about the internet in general, and Youtube specifically. This is truly video worth watching.

  43. Is it possible to use the way the bubble works for humans to breathe under water? I realize that this works because they are smaller in size, etc but could it be manipulated in any way?

  44. Wow, sounds as if the rat-tailed maggot's got some competition for cutest maggot. Still love those li'l guys though! Great to hear Crystal talk about all her research!

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