Physics in the animal world: the bombardier beetle and his "weapon"

bombardier beetle species Brachinus crepitans (photo:

Bombardier beetles are presented subfamilies Brachininae and Paussinae (family of ground beetles). There scorers everywhere, they do not exist except in Antarctica. More famous is the subfamily Brachininae. Its representatives, scientists have studied the best.

The size of the beetles subfamily very different. The maximum size of the bombardier beetle is 3 cm. They look normal, no bright elytra or particularly large mandibles. But there is something else - the ability to shoot poisonous liquid, whose temperature reaches 100 ° C at the enemy. The liquid itself is remarkable, not to mention the process of "shot".

What kind of liquid?
Shoot beetles mixture of hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide. This mixture is produced by two symmetrical glands of internal secretion. Materials developed glands, comes in a special tank with reinforced walls. There is also the smaller vessels, contains catalase and peroxidase. Their walls are also reinforced, and they are connected to a central reservoir. The muscles that are responsible for opening and closing of the "trunk" impacted. Similarly, the chamber and closed with the reagents. When the beetle is calm, fluid do not mix, all the "bulb" closed.

As soon as the need to shoot beetle, a large wall of the tank is compressed, and the substance of the smaller chambers are squeezed into the main "reactor". Where enzymes react with hydrogen peroxide to form singlet oxygen. This is a very strong oxidizing agent that reacts with the hydroquinone, oxidizing them to quinones (scientists were able to find out the chemical composition of these substances - a 2-methyl-1, 4-benzoquinone)


Both reactions take place with the release of large amounts of heat - the mixture is heated to 100 ° C. Do not forget that all this is not in a glass container such as flasks or vials, and the body of a living being. Once in the main chamber and there is still oxygen volume of the substance is increased, and the whole mixture is discharged through openings at the tip of the abdomen of an insect. Some shots are controlled by a special membrane. If the tank pressure exceeds a certain level, the diaphragm is opened, and the mixture is ejected, the pressure is reduced. The membrane is closed. Thereafter, the process is repeated and so on until complete exhaustion of the reactants in chambers abdomen beetle. Ripple is necessary in order that the reservoir, where the main reaction takes place, have time to cool down before the new shot.

The tip of the abdomen of an insect is very mobile. When "shooting" through this mobility beetle can aim, and very accurate. He is able to "shoot" for yourself, for yourself, head over to the right, left and up. Scorers shoots of some species no liquid stream, and a series of shots, each time is 8 to 17 milliseconds. liquid ejection speed of 10 m / s. Bearing in mind that the enemy beetle is usually very close, we can say that the "shell" catches up with the enemy almost instantly. Ant, beetle larger or even a frog, is going to grab the striker, usually do not have time to do.

To explore the process of "shooting" Eric Arndt (Eric Arndt) and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology used a complex system. It consists of X-ray synchrotron radiation emitter and a high-speed camera, which is able to make up to 2000 frames per second.

Discard the liquid may scare away other bugs. In particular, the number of species of ground beetles are able to dispose of caustic liquid in different directions. But inside their abdomen does not occur any reaction - this fluid is produced by special glands. Neither high temperature heating nor significant pressure in this case.

It is interesting also that males and females scorers can "shoot" exactly the same. But arrangements for the shots they are slightly different, although the reaction tanks and everything else is absolutely the same.

How he survives scorer?
This is a complex question that entomologists (and not only them) have tried to find the answer to more than one year. The thing is that the camera with the reagents and the main tank is covered with a special cloth. This fabric is not only resistant to the promotion of all chemical substances participating in the reaction, but also to withstand the heat. Plus, its low thermal conductivity, so the heat is not distributed throughout the body beetle heats only the main tank. The reservoir at the "shot" does not stretch.

Bombardier beetle and aviation
System beetle bodies which carried out the chemical reaction and the release of the liquid, can be important for the person. First, study the data pulse process "shot" beetle can be useful to engineers designing different engines, including jet engines for airplanes. Perhaps, accurate and rapid injection technology helps the engine to ensure the restoration of working capacity after a random stop.

Scientists still have a lot to figure out, is now the focus of specialists focused on the camera, where the oxidation reagent. The study of the structure of this camera can help to create heat-resistant, resistant to the action of the active chemical material. It is useful in industry, science, military affairs.

What else?
Bombardier beetle very creationists soul. They argue that such a complex specialized system could not appear in the process of evolution. Well if so, then the beetle suddenly appeared and immediately as a divine creation. Now, scientists were able to find intermediates evolution bombardier beetle, where the "gun" is gradually becoming more and more difficult. And the modern representatives of subfamilies scorers "armed" in different ways. Some beetles guidance is using the elytra, and not the abdomen. Other scorers emit only slightly heated liquid, and a number of species and generally emit a caustic liquid without heating. Differ from them and the camera - you can trace the development of "lab" from simple to complex systems. So what about any "divinity" of the beetle can be no question.



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