There are hundreds of different defense mechanisms in the animal kingdom. Among those are flight, speed, size, strength, camouflage, sight, hearing, smell, behavior and chemical defenses.
A graduate student, Thomas Bourguignon, from the Free University of Brussels, discovered a new and somewhat unique defense mechanism while studying colony ecology of termites in French Guiana. This particular termite, Neocapritermes taracua, uses a chemical defense mechanism that turns aging worker termites into suicide bombers.
Termites have a highly structured social hierarchy. The bulk of a termite colony consists of workers. They do most of the wood chewing and caring for the termite eggs and larvae. Then you have soldiers that have larger heads and mandibles. Their job is to protect the colony from invaders.
As worker termites grow older, their mandibles wear down and they are unable to carry out their roles of chewing wood. They soon die and are replaced with younger and stronger workers. That is in most cases, but not in the termites that Bourguignon studied.
In the N. taracua termites of South America, the aging workers have one last contribution to give to their colony. As the worker termite ages, they develop two types of crystals on the outside of their abdomens. The crystals are contained in small blue-green compartments, kind of like backpacks. The more the mandibles wore down, the larger the crystals grew.
When the colony is attacked, these backpack carrying old workers join up with the soldier termites. As one of these workers encounter an intruder, they secrete a glandular mixture that causes the two backpacks to rupture. The two crystals and glandular secretion cause a chemical reaction that literally explodes, killing the aged worker. The chemical blast covers the attacker with a sticky substance that can glue them in place and then it corrodes the intruder’s body.
This termite suicide bomber has to present a problem for evolutionists. The obvious question for evolution to answer is how did the worker termite evolve not one, but two different crystals that only work when mixed with each other and the glandular secretion? Three different chemical compounds in three different areas would have had to evolve at the same time to be of any use. If only one or two of the three elements evolved, they would have been useless and would have had no reason to be passed on to subsequent generations. It’s also quite possible that many other termites may have had this ability at one time, but lost the trait as they diverged from each over time.
It seems that these aged worker termites are not only suicide bombers for their own kind, but for evolution as well. There is no evolutionary explanation for them. The only possible explanation is that God designed them to do that from the very beginning.
Crumpton, Nick. Termites’ Crystal Backpacks Help Them Go Out With Bang, BBC News, July 26, 2012.
Rannals, Lee. Exploding Toxic Termites: Oh Yeah, It’s A Real Thing, Red Orbit, July 27, 2012.
Jason Lisle, Ph.D.
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