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Apologetics Press :: Sensible Science

Bombardier Beetles of the Sea
by Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

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For decades, creationists have pointed to the bombardier beetle as evidence against the evolutionary theory. This tiny beetle was designed with separate body cavities to house enzymes and chemicals that, when combined, rapidly reach the boiling point and can be expelled for defense. A Time magazine article commented on the intricate design of these beetles:

Its defense system is extraordinarily intricate, a cross between tear gas and a tommy gun. When the beetle senses danger, it internally mixes enzymes contained in one body chamber with concentrated solutions of some rather harmless compounds, hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinones, confined to a second chamber. This generates a noxious spray of caustic benzoquinones, which explode from its body at a boiling 212°F. What is more, the fluid is pumped through twin rear nozzles, which can be rotated like a B-17’s gun turret, to hit a hungry ant or frog with bull’s-eye accuracy (see Angier, 1985, p. 70).

A similar extraordinary mechanism has been discovered in the sea slug, which also protects itself using a sophisticated chemical defense system. A research team, led by Georgia State University biologist Charles Derby, has discovered that sea slugs (also called sea hares) store chemicals separately until they are needed for defense. In their report, they observed:

Sea hares protect themselves from predatory attacks with several modes of chemical defenses. One of these is inking which is an active release of a protective fluid upon predatory attack. In many sea hares including Aplysia californica and A. dactylomela, this fluid is a mixture of two secretions from two separate glands, usually co-released: ink, a purple fluid from the ink gland; and opaline, a white viscous secretion from the opaline gland. These two secretions are mixed in the mantle cavity and directed toward the attacking predator (Johnson, et al., 2006, 209:78).

Commenting on this amazing feat, Ann Claycombe noted: “When threatened by predators, sea slugs defend themselves by ejecting a potent inky secretion into the water consisting of hydrogen peroxide, ammonia and several types of acids” (2005). She continued: “Aplysia packages these innocuous precursors separately and then releases them simultaneously into its mantle cavity at the precise time when they are needed. This mechanism insures the secretion’s potency against attacking predators to enable sea slugs to escape” (2005).

The researchers used a variety of techniques to determine what chemical compounds were secreted. One compound has been designated escapin, and is believed to possess antimicrobial properties. Astonishingly, in speculating on the presence of these complex chemicals, Charles Derby observed: “The antimicrobial property probably evolved to work against predators” (as quoted in Claycombe, 2005, emp. added). He went on to suggest that escaping “might also function as an antimicrobial salve for Aplysia’s own wounds” (Claycombe).

Probably evolved? How? Does the team give any indication how these chemicals could have evolved in separate chambers? Does the team explain how the sea slug itself is protected from this defense spray? Does the team account for how the sea slug evolved a mechanism to deliver the chemicals for defense? The answer to these questions is a resounding NO! The fact is that the sea slugs would have died out before any such thing as an expulsion method that would successfully secrete the inky solution could have evolved. The evidence and logic point solely to an intelligent Designer. It is easy to furnish speculation, but it is something entirely different to uncover the truth. It is truly ironic that these scientists are patenting the chemicals secreted by the sea slug and are awarded grants to study the design and mechanisms of this creature, yet they continue to contend there is “no design here”!


Claycombe, Ann (2005), “Sea Slug Mixes Chemical Defense Before Firing at Predators,” EurekAlert, [On-line], URL:

Angier, Natalie (1985), “Drafting the Bombardier Beetle,” Time, February 25, p. 70.

Johnson, Paul M., Cynthia E. Kicklighter, Manfred Schmidt, Michiya Kamio, Hsiuchin Yang, Dimitry Elkin, William C. Michel, Phang C. Tai, and Charles D. Derby (2006), “Packaging of Chemicals in the Defensive Secretory Glands of the Sea Hare Aplysia californica,” The Journal of Experimental Biology, 209:78-88, January.

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