The Beetle That's A Chemist.
Posted 16 December 2011 - 05:02 PM
Posted 16 December 2011 - 05:08 PM
Posted 17 December 2011 - 10:22 AM
Here is some not so good info on where much of the info about the bombadier beetle came from;
Thomas Eisner, Who Cracked Chemistry of Bugs, Dies at 81
Dr. Eisner also studied the bombardier beetle. Even before Charles Darwin studied them, biologists knew that the beetle shot out ahot liquid as a defense mechanism. But they did not know how the beetle did it or what it was shooting.
In his research, Dr. Eisner and his colleagues showed that the beetle, in effect, makes a form of rocket fuel — boiling hot, no less— by combining two separately stored chemicals, then steers the stream by rotating the tip of its abdomen.
“Insects are the most versatile chemists on Earth,” Dr. Eisner said in a 1989 interview.
and for more chemistry in creatures news I submit;
Clever chemistry keeps trend-setting beetle babies off the menu, Cornell scientists report
...Naked, immobile and conspicuously colored, the squash beetle pupae would be easy picking for insect predators if they hadn't long ago perfected a science called combinatorial chemistry...
...The pupae of some beetle species defend themselves, Eisner explains, with mandible-like contraptions on their abdomens. By wiggling their abdomens, the pupae usually manage to pinch the legs or antennae of attacking insects, and thus survive into adulthood. But E. borealis pupae have no such mechanical defenses, so Eisner looked a little closer. Viewed through the microscope, the pupae are seen to have fine body hairs topped by glistening droplets of chemicals...
Creepy crawling chemists may surprise the unwary
...Other acid-producing creatures include the desert-dwelling whip scorpion, which does resemble a scorpion with a long whiplike feeler on its rear end. A knob at the base of this feeler is actually a revolving "gun turret" that shoots a mixture that is 84 percent acetic acid, or vinegar. It's no wonder that these whip scorpions are commonly called vinegaroons. Eisner found that the whip scorpion could easily discourage ants, grasshopper mice, lizards, birds and armadillos with its spray - one reason this
species has been around for some 300 million years.
Mystery lovers know that cyanide is a favorite poison for murders. It smells like bitter almonds, a plant source of the compound. Arthropods, including some millipedes, centipedes, beetle larvae and moths can brew up this poison, too. The cyanide is bound up with an aldehyde and sugar in a compound that can be stored safely in one chamber, then mixed with enzymes in another chamber that unbinds the cyanide during stressful encounters with ants, toads and other enemies.
Perhaps one of the strangest chemical defenses Eisner discovered was a walking stick that shoots out spray filled with catnip. Walking sticks are bizarre-looking insects that attempt to resemble a twig in the hopes that their predators--usually birds--are not paying close attention. If that fails, however, they shoot out catnip (also known as nepetalactone), which birds and many insects find much less appealing than a cat does. Catnip is usually prepared from a mint, which also produces the compound.
Reference: Eisner, Thomas. "For Love of Insects." Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2003.
The Photonic Beetle
Nature Builds Diamond-like Crystals for Future Optical Computers
May 20, 2008 - Researchers have been unable to build an ideal "photonic crystal" to manipulate visible light, impeding the dream of ultrafast optical computers. But now, University of Utah chemists have discovered that nature already has designed photonic crystals with the ideal, diamond-like structure: They are found in the shimmering, iridescent green scales of a beetle from Brazil. http://unews.utah.ed...p/050908-7.html
Here is a bit of info on the mechanics involved in the beetle;
SPRAY MECHANISM OF THE MOST PRIMITIVE BOMBARDIER BEETLE (METRIUS CONTRACTUS)
...Two tongue-in-groove devices ensure that the beetle’s abdominal deﬂections can proceed with reliable precision. The tongues of these devices are two blade-like structures projecting upwards from the abdominal margins, just in front of the emission channels (stars, Figs 6B, 7C). The corresponding grooves are two slit-like inﬂections on the inside of the elytra...
...Despite its anomaly, the discharge mechanism of M.contractus is basically paussoid. Both M. contractus and other paussoids (Eisner and Aneshansley, 1982; Eisner et al., 1992) direct their discharges by deﬂection of the abdominal tip. They deﬂect the tip downwards for posterior discharges and press it upwards for forwardly directed emissions. Both types of bombardier engage the elytra for forwardly directed ejections,but their elytra differ structurally, and they put them to use in different ways...
And for a bit of comedy I submit;
Coming to the question of life being found on other planets, Professor Haldane apologized for discoursing, as a mere biologist, on a subject on which we had been expecting a lecture by a physicist [J. D. Bernal]. He mentioned three hypotheses:
(a) That life had a supernatural origin,
( That it originated from inorganic materials, and
© That life is a constituent of the Universe and can only arise from pre-existing life.
The first hypothesis, he said, should be taken seriously, and he would proceed to do so. From the fact that there are 400,000 species of beetle on this planet, but only 8,000 species of mammals, he concluded that the Creator, if he exists, has a special preference for beetles, and so we might be more likely to meet them than any other type of animal on a planet which would support life. — J.B.S. Haldane
In Mark Williamson, 'Haldane's Special Preference', The Linnean, 1992, 8, 14.
Haldane was engaged in discussion with an eminent theologian. 'What inference,' asked the latter, 'might one draw about the nature of God from a study of his works?'
Haldane replied: 'An inordinate fondness for beetles.' — J.B.S. Haldane
As quoted in Clifton Fadiman (ed.), AndrÃ© Bernard (ed.), Bartlett's Book of Anecdotes (2000), 253.
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