Inside the Toxic Explosion Shooting Out of a Beetle’s Butt

Charles Hedgcock, © 2015 Wendy Moore
Charles Hedgcock, © 2015 Wendy Moore

Bombardier beetles share their name with Air Force crews who drop bombs for a reason. When under attack, the beetles, native to much of the world, expel a noxious jet of scalding chemicals at their enemies.

As part of a study published in Science magazine, intrepid researchers at MIT, the University of Arizona, and Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York recently used high-speed x-ray imaging to provide the first look inside the bombardier beetle’s abdomen as it ejects its toxic spray. The beetle's defensive spray comes out in powerful pulses, like a machine gun from the butt, complete with smoke.

Recorded at a rate of 2000 frames per second, the video shows how the beetles mix two chemicals in their abdomen to create benzoquinone, their defensive agent, and expel it from their body without doing any harm to themselves. The chemicals begin in separate chambers inside the beetle’s abdomen, then are released to mix together. As the chemicals combine in the beetle’s body, they heat up almost to the boiling point, creating pressure that expels the liquid out of the abdomen with heat, oxygen, and water vapor at a rate five times that of other insects that use benzoquinone as a defensive spray.

The structure of the beetle’s blast-resistant butt may one day help to design systems to protect against larger explosions than those found inside a half-inch beetle, or possibly even a new kind of propulsion. Beetle-butt-inspired rockets, here we come.

[h/t: Eurekalert]

A Nubian Goat Named Lincoln Was Just Sworn in as the Mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont Khmelnitskaia Khmelnitskaia

Lincoln the goat may not be housebroken, but she had no problem winning the race for mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont. The new mayor was officially sworn in on Tuesday, March 12, and before signing the oath of office with her hoof print, she marked the occasion by defecating on the town hall floor, the Boston Globe reports.

Prior to getting into politics, Lincoln the droopy-eared Nubian goat lived a simple life. A local family looking for a way to maintain the unruly vegetation on their property had purchased her two years ago when she was 1 year old. At age 3, Lincoln transitioned from munching grass full-time to running for public office.

Though Lincoln's win is impressive, her election didn't involve beating any human candidates. Town Manager Joseph Gunter came up with the idea to hold an election for honorary pet mayor of Fair Haven as way to raise money for a new playground. For a $5 fee, local kids were allowed to nominate the pet of their choice to be town mayor. Lincoln bested more than a dozen candidates, including a gerbil named Crystal and a pacifier-sucking dog named Stella, for the position.

The stunt didn't raise much money—the town came away with just $100 for the playground—but it did earn Fair Haven international attention. In order to go down in history as world's longest-serving animal mayor, Lincoln has to stick around for a while; Stubbs the cat was mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska for 20 years.

[h/t Boston Globe]

The 10 Most Popular Puppy Names of 2019

If you brought home a new dog or puppy recently and named it Luna, you’re far from the only one. The name, which means moon in Latin, is the most popular puppy name for 2019.

This analysis of cute canine monikers comes from Trupanion, a provider of medical insurance for pets. The company looked at its database of 500,000 dogs and crunched the numbers to identify the names that are currently having a moment. (Although some of the names that cracked the top 10 list, like Daisy and Max, have been around for quite some time.)

Interestingly, Luna wasn’t always popular. As Trupanion points out, “Looking back 10 years, Luna was barely a blip on the name game chart … not even cracking the list of top 20 names.” Nor did it appear on ​Banfield Pet Hospital's list of the 10 most popular dog names of 2018.

Often, there's some overlap between popular pet names and baby names. Luna was the 31st most popular baby name for girls in 2018. This is perhaps linked to the popularity of the Harry Potter character Luna Lovegood, as well as the publicity the name has received in recent years from celebrities like John Legend and Chrissy Teigen and Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem, as both couples named their daughters Luna.

Second on the list of popular puppy names is Bella (its longer form, Isabella, was the fifth most popular baby name for girls last year). Check out the top 10 list below to see if your pooch’s name is trending right now.

1. Luna
2. Bella
3. Charlie
4. Bailey
5. Lucy
6. Cooper
7. Max
8. Daisy
9. Bear
10. Oliver