Can design have multiple purposes? That is a question asked by some scientists in a study led by Jesse Barber of Boise (Idaho) State University. The specific design feature they studied is the flashing light of fireflies. Do they have more than one purpose for their flashes?
We always believed that a firefly flashes its light to attract mates. That is reasonable and true, but it is an oversimplification of what the flashing does. Many times living organisms have a warning system built into their design to let predators know they are not good to eat. Barber and his associates suggested that fireflies taste bad and that the flashing warns predators not to eat them.
To test this theory, the researchers put bats that had never been around fireflies into a cage with fireflies. The bats learned in two or three interactions that a flashing bug is not good to eat. Barber says the bats quickly did a routine of “catch, taste, drop.”
Barber’s team then painted the flashing end of some lightning bugs with two coats of black paint so the bats could not see the flashes. Bats faced with the painted fireflies took up to 45 minutes to learn not to try to eat them. It seems evident that the flashing of a lightning bug has more than one function.
Can design have multiple purposes? This study answers that question with a “Yes.” Designing a system that has multiple benefits is engineering at its best. God’s design in nature is amazing! The more we know of the creation, the closer we get to the Creator and the more we see His planning and design.
–John N. Clayton © 2018
This study was published in August 22 Science Advances which you can read HERE.
Science News reported on it in their September 29 issue (page 4) which is available online HERE.