A deep look at Mono Lake’s alkali flies

Mono Lake’s fascinating alkali flies were featured today as part of KQED San Francisco’s Deep Look video series, which explores big scientific mysteries by going incredibly small.

If you have five minutes, take a look to see detailed, close-up footage of the alkali flies, much closer than it is possible to see them in person. The flies have a special waxy coating and lots of hairs, both of which allow them to “scuba dive” into Mono Lake enveloped by a protective air bubble. While underwater, the flies graze on algae and lay their eggs; they also go through most of their life cycle underwater.

Several species of birds rely on Mono Lake’s alkali flies for food, and people eat them too. Alkali fly pupae have been a traditional staple food for the Mono Lake Kutzadika’a Tribe for thousands of years. If you attend a South Tufa tour at Mono Lake you’ll have the opportunity to try alkali fly pupae yourself—they taste a bit like salted popcorn.

Check out the video and tell us your favorite fact about the alkali flies!

Top photo by Arya Degenhardt.