By Charles Towne
You will excuse me if I confess to being just a tad strange. Well, perhaps it isn’t so much that I am strange as much as I ENJOY strange.
I am absolutely fascinated by some of the weird defense systems found in nature. Take porcupines as an example. Erethizon Dorsatum, the North American Porky is slow-moving and much-maligned in the sense that contrary to popular belief he doesn’t throw his quills. A question that frequently comes up when people are discussing porcupines is, “How do they mate?” The stock answer is invariably, “Very carefully!” As evidenced by the fact that there are a lot of the four-legged pincushions wandering in the northern forests their mating endeavors must be quite successful, but just in case Mr. or Mrs. Quill pig ends up impaled by their own armament the creator, quite considerately I might add, endowed the creature with the ability to remove any offending quills. Not only that but the porky’s quills are coated with an antibiotic so there is no danger of infection! Very thoughtful of God I would say.
Then there is the bombardier beetle. When threatened by a predator this little guy will actually fire its own artillery! There are chambers in the bombardier beetle’s abdomen that contain the components of a very sophisticated chemical cannon. But then the question arises, what in the world prevents the chemicals from exploding internally, eventually leading to the beetle’s extinction? To prevent himself from being blown up by his own cannon, the chemicals, hydroquinone and hydrogen peroxide reside in separate chambers in the beetle’s body, exploding only when they are mixed as they are ejected. But, it takes another enzyme to actually trigger this fantastical explosion. Oh yes, and the bombardier beetle can actually aim his cannon up, down, and sideways! What a wonderful creator we serve!
Another creature that fascinates me is the archerfish. This tiny fish preys on insects, shooting them from overhanging branches with a forceful jet of water shot from its mouth. This little piscatorial wonder is able to compensate for refraction as well as distance striking his target from a distance as great as four feet away. Yeah, not just strange but marvelous if you ask me.
Now for the weird. (I, for some strange reason like this little guy!)
(I am convinced that Papa God, the creator, has an incredible sense of humor.)
Cassida Rubignosa, in its larval form is a soft, tender little critter and without some means of defending itself would probably have become extinct long ago due to so many hungry birds and other beasties that would find it absolutely delicious. In its larval form Cassida has a fork shaped appendage on its rear end, and when it sheds, its old skin is caught on the fork and serves as a poop sack. Yes, that’s right, a poop sack. Then Cassida flips the poop sack up onto its back and carries it wherever it goes. You might well ask, “Why in the world would the adorable little tyke carry a sack of stinky stuff around? So I will tell you. There is a predatory ant that finds the tender larval form of insects most delectable. The hungry ant sees Cassida, rushes forward and reaches out to grab our little friend, and cute, tender, little cassida says, “Leave me alone or I will hit you with my poop sack!” And that is exactly what he does. The ant, being a very fastidious ant, and not liking to be smacked with Cassida’s poop sack, Says something like “YUCK!” And backs off, and begins frantically grooming itself, allowing Cassida Rubignosa to trundle off and make his escape, poop sack and all. Whenever I think of Cassida I can’t help but think of those poor dear souls that enjoy gossiping about folks and causing a big stink. Sort of their own version of hitting other folks with their poop sack which might be good for baby beetles but not good for God’s children nohow!
Charles Towne is first and foremost a Christian. An octogenarian, author, journalist, wildlife photographer, naturalist, caregiver, and survivor, his life has been and continues to be, a never-ending adventure filled with possibilities never imagined. He has adopted the philosophy that to Live fully, laugh uproariously, love passionately, and learn like there is no tomorrow, is a formula for a long and joy-filled life.