Upside-Down Beetle Walking Underwater

Upside-Down Beetle
Water Scavenger Beetle

The insect world continually surprises scientists who sometimes see an insect do something that no one had noticed or paid attention to before. For example, most of us have witnessed water striders that use surface tension to skate along the top of quiet pools of water. However, recently a researcher in Australia noticed a beetle walking on the water surface, but upside down from below. The upside-down beetle is a species of water scavenger beetle (Hyrophilidae) and the first beetle in which a scientist has documented this behavior.

Some snails can slide along the underside of the water surface on a layer of mucus. However, these beetles seem to have a unique method of walking upside down in the water. They can even stop and pause or change directions as if walking on a solid surface. This gives the beetle some advantage to avoid predators.

This behavior was noticed and documented by behavioral biologist John Gould of the University of Newcastle in Australia. The picture is of another water scavenger beetle in Ohio. However, you can see a video taken by Gould on YouTube at THIS LINK.

Apparently, the beetle traps an air bubble against its upturned belly, allowing it to press against the water-air boundary. The beetle’s feet must have some way of getting traction to enable movement. Robotics experts have learned from the ability of water striders to walk on the water’s surface. Therefore, it seems likely they will find some uses for walking upside down under liquid surfaces.

Gould said that “the findings about the upside-down beetle highlight how often we ignore or miss the amazing things the smallest animals are doing every day, and describing the natural history of the small is just as important as describing the natural history of any large mammal or bird.” In addition, the upside-down beetle reminds us that we can learn by studying God’s creation and the design He built into every living thing.

— John N. Clayton © 2021

Reference: Science News, July 31, 2021, and Ethology.

Nature’s Jawbreaker – the Ironclad Beetle

Nature's Jawbreaker – the Ironclad Beetle

What would you think if I told you that a steamroller weighing 3900 tons could run over me and not hurt me? I doubt you would even dignify me with an answer because it is obvious that I would be lying. In the natural world, a beetle called the diabolical ironclad beetle (Phloeodes diabolicus) can withstand a force 39,000 times its body weight and not crack. Researchers have nicknamed it “nature’s jawbreaker.”

Scientists have paid a lot of attention paid to this beetle in recent months because the secret of its ability to withstand massive forces has a variety of applications. That secret is in the beetles’ exoskeleton. Tiny interlocked and impact-absorbing structures with zipper-like ridges connect the exoskeleton’s top and bottom and resist bending to protect the vital organs. A damage-resistant joint connects the left and right side of the exoskeleton, and a protein glue helps hold the top and bottom together. If the beetle is put under tremendous force, tiny cracks form in the glue to absorb impact energies without cracking the joint.

The diabolical ironclad beetle can be run over by a car and survive with no damage to its internal organs. Scientists are researching ways to apply the ironclad beetle design to armored vehicles for the military and various medical devices. Humans frequently use God’s designs in living things to produce devices that protect and serve people. Nature’s jawbreaker has one of the most recently studied useful designs. We prefer to call this beetle, “God’s jawbreaker.”

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Science News, November 21, 2020.

You can read about some other examples of copying God’s design (biomimicry) HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.

Fire Chaser Beetles

Fire Chaser Beetles
Wind driven fire devils in burning forest.

It seems that God has created creatures to fill every possible need that can occur in nature. One of the most interesting of these is a beetle that is actually attracted to fires. According to the American Museum of Natural History, the beetle is of the genus Melanophila. People who live in areas where wildfires are frequent refer to them as “fire chaser beetles.”

When a fire occurs, the beetles sense its presence and fly toward it. They will lay their eggs in forest material that is still smoldering, or in material that has been recently burned. The biological explanation is that their eggs are safer from predators than they would be in an area that has not been burned, but how would they know that.

If you think about it, this beetle is a significant factor in the recovery of a burned area. One problem after wildfires is that much of the food for birds and mammals has been destroyed. The whole ecosystem has to be reset, and the eggs and baby beetles of Melanophila are at the bottom of the food chain. The fire chaser beetles’ ability to locate the fires involves an infrared detection system. Instead of flying away from the fire, as you would expect, they fly toward it.

How such a system could develop by natural selection is an interesting question. It seems that fire chaser beetles are part of God’s design to assist the recovery of burned-over areas.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Reference: Reader’s Digest, June 2020, page 36.