The Design of Beetles

The Design of Beetles - Red Flour Beetle
Red Flour Beetle

In every environment on Earth, frogs, fish, and various insects depend on beetles for food. We see beetles in deserts worldwide, and many desert animals rely on them as a food source. A mystery that has vexed scientists is the design of beetles that allows them to survive in arid climates.

Recent research shows that beetles have a unique system to recycle water. They have an organ near the end of their digestive system called the “rectal complex,” lined with blister-like cells that draw moisture out of fecal material. Instead of being excreted, the water passes through the wall of the rectal complex and back into the beetle’s body by osmosis. This process allows beetles to be very abundant in desert ecosystems, providing food for various desert creatures.

Insects annually damage up to 20% of the world’s food supply. Because of the design of the rectal complex, red flour beetles (Tribolium castaneum) can survive in dry food storage such as wheat and flour. While this design benefits desert creatures, it is a real problem for humans. Researchers studying these beetles have found a gene that appears to be the key to their ability to recycle water.

The design of beetles serves them well in their natural habitat, but it creates problems when they get into stored human food. God has given living creatures the ability to survive and humans the intelligence to understand the design to benefit our survival.

— John N. Clayton © 2023

Reference: Science News May 6 & 20, 2023, page 5