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Gag order: For some toads, these beetles are hard to swallow

Sean Greene, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Science & Technology News

That left one remaining question: How do the beetles survive inside the toads' digestive systems?

The 16 vomited bombardier beetles spent between 12 and 107 minutes stewing in the digestive fluids and enzymes of the toads' stomachs.

In additional tests, other ground beetle species were fed to toads. Fewer of these beetles got barfed out by the amphibians, and if they did, fewer were able to walk away.

And so it appears that in addition to evolving their offensive defense mechanism, bombardier beetles also evolved a high tolerance for digestive juices, making their survival strategy complete. Perhaps it's a two-fer -- the beetles' toxic brew may neutralize the toad's stomach fluids and enzymes while also causing them to vomit, the scientists wrote.

No toads were seriously harmed, and they were released back into the wild when the experiments were done, the authors noted. The same couldn't be said for all the beetles.

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