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Watch: Bombardier Beetle Blasts Baneful, Boiling Brew from Behind

posted: 05/01/15
by: Discovery.com Staff
Bombardier beetle fires
Photo by Charles Hedgcock, (c)2015 Wendy Moore

A word to the wise: don't agitate a bombardier beetle. When provoked, the feisty little creature will shoot boiling hot chemicals out of its backside to fend off predators.

This according to researchers at the University of Arizona, who recently published a paper that reveals exactly how the beetle is able to shoot its noxious spray. Using a robotic arm to stimulate the beetle, the team took video footage and x-rays of the shooting in action to better understand the underlying physiological process:


The footage revealed that the individual spurts are not the result of muscle contractions, as originally hypothesized. Rather, a very specific reaction of chemicals and enzymes in the beetle's reaction chamber creates oxygen, water vapor and heat, the force of which then propels the noxious spray out of the beetle. The reactions occur in a pulsed pattern, similar to a machine gun firing.

"By having a pulsed delivery, these small beetles produce a relatively large amount of defensive spray, which they can aim precisely and with great force and speed," Moore said. "This is truly one of the most remarkable and elegant defensive mechanisms documented to date."

Moore hopes to apply her beetle research to new design principles for blast mitigation and propulsion technologies.

Click here for more information from University of Arizona

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