Brown Bats and Tiger Beetles

Brown Bats and Tiger Beetles
Tiger Beetle Cicindela oregona in Arizona desert

One of the challenges in the natural world is keeping a balance between predators and victims. If predators have a foolproof method of locating their prey, they will eventually wipe out their food population, and the predators will die. That means victims must have some method of avoiding predation. Harlan Gough, a conservation entomologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has done some amazing experiments with brown bats and tiger beetles.

When Gough placed brown bats and tiger beetles into a cage together, the bats ate all of the tiger beetles. In the wild, this doesn’t happen because tiger beetles have a way of mimicking an insect known as a tiger moth. Tiger moths live in the same areas as tiger beetles, but bats don’t eat them because they have a foul taste. Dr. Gough found that tiger beetles can emit the same clicks as tiger moths when they sense predatory bats. They pull their forewings into the path of their beating hind wings, creating a high-pitched click similar to the tiger moth’s sound.

In the natural world, all living things have one or more methods to avoid predators. It may be smell or sight, but this may be the first case of using sound to deter predation. Realize that all of this happens at night when ultrasonics are more useful than sight and smell. No prey survival methods are 100% sure, so predators can still survive, especially when the food source is injured or sick.

We suggest that this case of brown bats and tiger beetles is another instance where there are too many variables to assign to chance. Having tiger moths with bad taste living in the same Arizona desert with tiger beetles seems more likely to be a planned and designed system than a series of accidents. The statement in Romans 1:20 that “we can know there is a God through the things He has made” seems to be supported again as we learn more about the functioning of the natural world.

— John N. Clayton © 2024

Reference: Science News, June 15, 2024, page 11.