The Bombardier Beetle: Don't Make Him Boiling Mad!
Evolution continues to amaze.
Mankind learned back in feudal times how to defend himself, set in a backdrop of knights, castles, moats; attackers were douched in boiling oil and the cheapest and most effective, a drenching in boiling water.
Castles were often constructed with channels leading from the battlements to the area behind the port-cullis where trapped enemy soldiers could be dissuaded of further advance by being par-cooked in hundreds of gallons of boiling water cascading on them from above.
This must have represented the ultimate in sophisticated defence around the year 1000. But it was nothing new in nature: certain beetles had been employing and developing this technique for damaging and escaping predators, such as ants, for about 500 million years.
These are the Bombardier Beetles, and you absolutely cannot study the defence mechanisms of this tiny Ground Beetle without marvelling at what evolution can achieve when given half a billion years in the development stages.
There are some 500 distinct species of Ground Beetles, or Carabidae, which employ these advanced defence mechanisms. They are found everywhere on the planet except Antarctica, and, curiously, Asia. They are nocturnal, carnivorous hunters and many people picking one up have been surprised, dropping the beetle with a yell, as they experience a blast of noxious, near boiling gas and liquid from the insect's rear end! Ants and other opportunistic predators have been more than surprised; the emission has proven fatal for them.
The Bombardier manufactures and stores Hydroquinone and Hydrogen Peroxide, along with water and certain Catalytic Enzymes in seperate chambers within its body. When menaced, it forces this mixture together in another chamber, whereupon in undergoes a violent chemical reaction, called a Exothermic Chemical Reaction.
The valves leading back into the creature's abdomen slam shut, protecting its internal organs from the hot, corrosive mixture.
Then the foul liquid undergoes Flash Evaporation, changing its composition into both gas and liquid. To a series of loud popping sounds, around 500 times per second (and lasting a fraction of a second) the searing, foul smelling, liquid/gas, at close to boiling temperature, is "fired" from glands in the beetle's rear into the face of its attacker, either killing it outright, or definitely giving it pause about continuing to predate on such a vigorous defender.
Like a miniature tank, the beetle can direct its glands all around, even between its legs firing to the front!
Fatal to its attackers; the chemical mix and high temperature can actually burn the skin of a human hand! In case you felt like catching a few for breakfast.
It is little wonder such creatures have proven so successful in occupying nearly every corner of the planet.
Creationists have used the Bombardier and its sophisticated defences as argument to say it had to have been designed by an intelligent creator. Yet etymologists have shown various stages of the development in fossils through out the Millennia.
Evolution is full of surprises: billions of life forms, each so special in its own way and so carefully adapted to its environment. But few creatures can demonstrate to us, so simply and effectively, the "intelligence" of evolution and the ongoing adaptations of natural selection. Far more wonderful, in my view, than any so-called "miracles" ascribed to some fanciful deity.
The ultimate in evolutionary design.
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