What Is The Bombardier Beetles' Defense Mechanism?


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Bombardier beetle, of the genus Brachinus and related genera, has a strong defense mechanism. When disturbed they expel a strong smelling, volatile secretion in small jets from the special glands in their abdomen. It is accompanied by an audible sound and a visible puff as the secretion evaporates.

The tip of the beetle's abdomen is somewhat elongated and more flexible, which allows the beetle to aim its discharge in various directions. The secretion contains a mixture of chemicals like benzoquinone and methyl benzoquinone or hydrogen peroxide depending on the species. These beetles are most notable for their defense mechanism and hence they earned the common name.

In various insects, different defensive chemicals besides quinones are found. This helps those insects defend against predators which have evolved resistance to quinones. The chemical mechanism may be similar in all bombardier beetles but they may have different methods of aiming. Some beetles when threatened while foraging on water, they touch their abdominal glands to the surface of the water. The chemicals secreted disturb the surface tension of water rapidly propelling the beetle up to several meters away from the predator.

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