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The Lie: Evolution


Bombardier Beetle’s ‘Buzz Bombs’

Some species of bombardier beetles have been found to deliver their defensive sprays in pulses like World War II German V-l ‘buzz’ bombs. Chemical ecologist Thomas Eisner and colleagues from Cornell University used high-speed film to photograph the amazing beetles in action. They found that when the beetles were attacked they squirted their chemical defence sprays in trains of millisecond-length pulses, rather than in continuous streams.

When a bombardier beetle is attacked it contracts muscles in glands that store chemical reactants in separate compartments. This forces the reactants through a valve in each gland into a reaction chamber. Enzymes convert the chemicals into the spray’s active ingredients, while releasing lots of heat. The explosive spray fires at the attacker.

‘You see a little puff of smoke’ and hear a pop, says Eisner. The puffs and pops are actually composed of short pulses, each lasting about two-thousandths of a second.

Science News, 9 June 1990, p. 356.

The well-designed bombardier beetle has a special ‘inhibitor’ chemical to stop the mixture inside it from exploding too soon and blowing it up. Its amazing cannon system could not have evolved piece by piece. All its ‘bomb’ features had to work perfectly the very first time—or all hope for the beetle and its children would have gone up in smoke!