Three Cornell University biologists, working with the late Professor Harold (Doc) Edgerton of MIT, have discovered this surprising anticipation of technology by nature. Writing in a recent issue of Science, Cornell scientists Jeffrey Dean, Associate Professor Daniel J. Aneshansley, and Professor Thomas Eisner explain their remarkable discovery, which required co-author Doc Edgerton's high-speed photography to catch the beetle in action.
Dr. Eisner explained the cycle that apparently occurs within the beetle an average of about 500 times per second: "The bombardier beetle uses what is essentially a binary weapon. It stores the two ingredients of an explosive chemical process hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide in a pair of reservoirs, and the catalysts for the reaction...in [another] pair of reaction chambers."When the beetle is disturbed, muscles around the reservoirs contract just enough to force a little of the hydroquinones and hydrogen peroxide through one-way valves that are normally closed. As the catalysts start the reaction, heat and pressure of the oxygen [liberated from the hydrogen peroxide] quickly close the valves. Pressure continues to build until the reaction chambers vent through the tip of the abdomen with a high velocity pulse of quinones." Then the reaction chamber pressure drops enough to reopen the biological valves, and the process repeats itself automatically at a rate hundreds of times per second.
Storytellers : Cornell scientists Jeffrey Dean, Associate Professor Daniel J. Aneshansley, and Professor Thomas Eisner
Story reteller : Roger Segelken
Doc's Parting Shot; A Shooting Beetle