So, I was at the pond yesterday. At the pond, I collected a very large wolf spider, a very small frog, and a very average-sized grasshopper. I also did a couple of sweeps with my net, which did not, at the time, seem to turn up anything interesting.
However, when I went to go put my net away today, I noticed that there was something moving around in there. So I turned my net inside-out to investigate. This is what I found.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the best animal on the planet.
I know I say that a lot. If people ask me to describe crocodiles or toads or liver flukes or ichneumon wasps, I will probably tell you, at some point, that these are the best animals on the planet. And while all of those are excellent animals, they are not the actual best animals on the planet, because, like Highlander, there can be only one, and it is the bombardier beetle. (If you made me pick a particular species of bombardier beetle, admittedly, it would probably be Stenaptinus insignis and not a Brachinus, but dwelling on that would miss the point of this post, and also I might end up picking Metrius contractus instead, because I’m a contrarian.)
First of all, they are ground beetles, and carabids are my absolute favorite insects. They’re a beautiful, diverse group of (mostly!) predators that contains some of the coolest insects on the planet. Bombardiers are also a particularly beautiful group of carabids; instead of the black color that’s common across so many ground beetles, they go for flashier colors, like this lovely orange-and-blue Brachinus (they also come in lovely spotted patterns). And, of course, the defining feature of these beetles is their ability to eject boiling-hot chemicals from their butts. Crocodiles, what do you have on that? (Yeah, I said it.)
Okay, so, yes, creationists and ID people have co-opted them as symbols of irreducible complexity. This is an annoyingly stupid perspective to have on these beetles, and smarter people than me have dismantled these claims. It doesn’t for a second, demolish the pure awesome of these animals, or my delight at finding one.
Here, have a video of Stenaptinus in action.
Okay. That’s enough carabid linkspam for one day.