Researchers used intense X-rays at the Advanced Photon Source to study how the bombardier beetle sprays hot and caustic chemicals from two rear glands when threatened. Image by Andrew WW via Creative Commons - We humans forbade it a long time ago, but there's one insect that uses chemical warfare of the sort we banned in the Geneva Conventions. That's the bombardier beetle, which creates a noxious, boiling hot stream of chemicals inside its body to spray at enemies when threatened. Researchers using the Advanced Photon Source, a U.S. Department of Energy user facility at Argonne National Laboratory, have gotten the first-ever look inside the living beetle as it sprays. The results are published today in Science. Scientists and engineers have long been interested in the beetles' rapid-pulse firing--more than 600 times per second--with the intent of stealing the technology: it's been studied for everything from ways to design jet engines that re-start in midair to a deterrent to ATM vandals. "You could take high-speed photographs of the outside as the spray came out, and you could dissect it to look at the anatomy," said Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist and former Argonne scientist Wah-Keat Lee, who co-authored the study, "but you really couldn't see inside a living insect until we were able to do this study at the APS." "We were not only able to see how the gas and vapor react inside the beetle, but also quantify the reactions that happen," he said. "Synchotron X-rays allowed us to visualize the dynamics of explosions as they occurred within the reaction chambers inside of the beetle's bodies. Using this sophisticated, powerful technology, we could finally test previously untestable hypotheses generated by studying the anatomy of dead specimens," said University of Arizona entomologist Wendy Moore, who specializes on bombardier beetles and co-authored the study. The beetles store the chemicals in two separate compartments inside their bodies: a reservoir holding most of the chemicals and an armored chamber that contains enzymes to jump-start the reaction. When they're ready to fire, a valve between the two compartme - Argonne, Illinois, United States - Thursday 21st May 2015 (2 Pictures)
Beetlejuice, Researchers Used Intense X-rays At The Advanced Photon Source To Study How The Bombardier Beetle Sprays Hot and Caustic Chemicals From Two Rear Glands When Threatened. Image By Andrew Ww Via Creative Commons
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Beetlejuice and Please Credit To Charles Hedgcock.
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