Life & Glaciers

Chilean Torrent Midge pupa (Blephariceridae) frontal view. Stacked image of preserved specimen. (R. Isaí Madriz)


Life & Glaciers

(Patagonia’s Untold Stories)


Its skin is splitting open down its back. Three pairs of lateral attachment points keep its streamlined body glued to the submerged rock. It will use the glacial raging torrent to its advantage. With the last air in its body, it inflates its thorax to free itself from its pupal skin. It has violated an unbreakable rule of hydrodynamics. There will be consequences. There is no turning back.

The unforgiving torrent violently rips its fragile soft body away, revealing its nature. It is a female.

The trapped air in her thorax will save her life. Through buoyancy, she reaches the surface and uses her young wings to fly away from the treacherous current.

Torrent Midge adults (Blephariceridae: Edwardsina) from Patagonia Chile. (R. Isaí Madriz)

Resting on an overhanging leaf of the marginal vegetation she completes her transformation by hardening her skin.

Below, others are not so fortunate. Feasting fish engulf the unlucky ones that delayed to surface, while small birds swoop down to snatch those in desperate search for cover.

Mature larvae are under attack, they congregate in the swiftest channels, using the force of the current as their only defense. Their six ventral hydraulic suckers that keep them firmly anchored to the submerged rocks are no match for the jaws of hungry fish.

Adulthood is a developmental stage many will not experience.

Our female braves the predators and flies across the river only to be intercepted by a male. The pair search for cover in the riparian vegetation. After copulation, his life cycle is complete. She on the other hand must stay alive and produce eggs.

A few days pass by and she braves the torrent yet again, but this time to lay her eggs. She selects a large rock in the main river channel and begins to anchor her eggs at the waterline. She must hurry. The unpredictable current thrashes her against the rock face as she struggles to hold on, but persists.

At last, all of her eggs are securely attached to the rock, but she remains in place. Prolonged exposure to the freezing water has dangerously cooled her body. She is unable to take off. The turbulent flow is unforgiving. Unable to hold on any further, she releases her grip and her body is claimed by the very river that witnessed her entire life.

With this action, she culminates a glacial dependent natural cycle that has been developing for millennia, but with the current global environmental threats, for how long will this process be allowed to continue?

R. Isaí Madriz collecting Torrent Midges in Patagonia (Aysén, Chile). (Kristina K. Lindsay Madriz)


R. Isaí Madriz PhD. Photo Credit: Randall Scott/National Geographic

Dr. R. Isaí Madriz is an entomologist and zoologist with expertise in freshwater aquatic insects of Patagonia. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow, he is telling the story of deglaciation of the Northern Patagonia Ice Field, focusing on its vanishing aquatic insect diversity through images and stories of exploration, science and human connections. He combines hiking, bikepacking and packrafting to transect unexplored areas and secluded fjords in search of some of the rarest insects on the planet. This low carbon footprint approach utilizes renewable energy sources to capture never before seen footage of remote glacial outlets and hidden valleys of wild Patagonia. Madriz is documenting the largely unknown endemic aquatic insect fauna of this vital region before Chile’s Aysén region’s biodiversity is transformed forever.


  1. Mariana
    November 27, 9:54 pm

    Great words and pictures!! I can’t wait to continue reading and seeing the magical journey!

  2. Juan Perez
    Aurora IL
    November 15, 4:40 pm

    Excelente trabajo de investigación que demuestra lo poco que sabemos aún del mundo en que vivimos y que estamos estamos poco a poco destruyendo. Felicidades al Dr. Madriz por esta información tan profesional.

  3. Pilar Sayeed amiga de Lupita
    November 4, 10:21 am

    This is a truly remarkable description of that particular insects life cycle. Great story telling, keep up the awesome work!

    October 29, 9:26 am

    El trabajo de este chico es sensacional!!!! Es Muy responsable e inteligente!! Cualquier investigación y para el es un reto cada día tener más información importante que darnos. Es un gran placer conocerte Dr. ISAI

  5. Amiga de lupita
    October 25, 2:36 pm

    Comparto mucho la felicidad de tu Mami te te admiro por todo lo que has logrado y es un orgullo que seas de nuestra raza.

  6. Cuquis Ibarra
    Zapopan,Jalisco. Mexico
    October 24, 10:52 am

    Dr. Isai Felicidades por su trabajó. Su madre esta orgullosa de usted

  7. Nancy Jo
    October 19, 10:20 pm

    Beautiful! Keep them coming!

  8. Kaia
    October 12, 9:50 pm

    I had no idea surviving as a Chilean Torrent Midge was so treacherous.

  9. Ursula
    October 12, 8:43 pm

    Great photo! That opening reads like a Michael Crichton novel!!

  10. Rosario Jazo
    United States
    October 12, 1:18 pm

    Felicidades !! Me siento muy orgullosa de ser tu tía, me fascina tu investigación tq.

  11. Shawna Llama
    Baltimore, MD
    October 11, 8:39 am

    Impressive storytelling and ensnaring photographs. I can taste the icy river and hear the struggles of the midge!

    Congratulations, Dr. Madriz 🙂

  12. Alex
    October 9, 11:51 am

    Congratulations on the first post! Hope I can make it down there again! Cant wait to see the rest.

  13. Gunnar Kvifte
    Lafayette, IN
    October 7, 9:32 pm

    This is beyond cool – great artwork and inspiring storytelling!

    • R. Isai Madriz
      October 8, 12:15 am

      Thank you Gunnar, It is good to have the endorsement of another Diptera expert! Perhaps a psychodid story may come up in the near future.

  14. Jessica Tolerba
    San Jose, California
    October 7, 2:34 pm

    Great first story! Very descriptive and makes even non-interested folks of insects interested! Fabulous job!

  15. Barbara
    Palo Alto
    October 6, 9:21 pm

    That first photo is beyond cool – very “other-worldly.” I love the descriptive story that takes me into the amazing world of Chilean Patagonia. Can’t wait for more!

  16. Wileta Burch
    October 6, 5:04 pm

    Wonderful, interesting story, Isai I will look forward to further postings. A great photo, too.

  17. Sonia
    October 6, 3:08 pm

    Wow I can’t wait for the weird insects that you will find in this adventure but I’m awaiting for the stories to came, great job Isaí and Kristina also thanks for the fenomenal pictures.

  18. Richard
    October 6, 1:49 am

    Looks sweet! Have you found any MOOOOTHS?

  19. Manuel Cordero
    Puerto Rico
    October 5, 10:07 pm

    WOW! Great Pictures. This is so interesting, very anxious to know what’s next.

  20. Targe Lindsay
    Palo Alto, CA
    October 5, 7:30 pm

    Nice start! Looking forward to many more stories to come.

  21. Cindy
    Falls Church VA
    October 5, 5:48 pm

    Keep up with this fascinating and important research. Kudos

  22. joanne lindssay
    carmichael, CA
    October 5, 5:47 pm

    So interesting– Anxious to read more.

  23. Mariela
    Aurora IL
    October 5, 5:05 pm

    Congratulations!!! Love reading about your stories, feels like you are actually there. Amazing!!!

    Looking forward to read them en español.

  24. Targe Lindsay
    United States
    October 5, 4:31 pm

    Enlightening introduction, Isai! Great picture of you blending in with the rock in the torrent, also. Gonna be fun reading about your thoughts, info and adventures! Thanks for posting! D

    • R. Isai Madriz
      October 5, 4:53 pm

      Thank you for the kind words. The photo credit goes to Kristina Lindsay as she caught the perfect moment. There will be more interesting stories to come.

  25. David
    October 5, 2:37 pm

    Congratulations beautiful photos

  26. Anand Varma
    United States
    October 5, 1:11 pm

    Nice lead photo Isaí!

    • R. Isai Madriz
      October 5, 4:19 pm

      Thank you Anand! I learned a few tricks from the best mentor I’ve had

  27. Adrian
    Guadalajara, Mexico
    October 5, 11:30 am

    Very interesting, congratulations.

  28. Fernanda
    October 5, 11:30 am

    Very interesting.

  29. Iván Mardueño Díaz
    Guadalajara México
    October 5, 11:11 am

    Me parece fantástico qué promuevan este tipo de investigaciones para que nos den a conocer otro estilo de vida existente pues eso nos hace comprender y valorar más el mundo en que vivimos.

    • R. Isai Madriz
      October 5, 4:22 pm

      Así es Ivan. Habra mas historias de estas y espero traducirlas al español

  30. Lupita
    October 5, 10:48 am

    Congratulations , Amazing

  31. Vero
    October 5, 9:27 am