Wednesday, September 2, 2020

And A Half Hour Later He Was Hungry Again


There are lots of interesting facets to the recent discovery of a small water beetle that, when ingested by a frog, motors its way all the way through the frog and out its back door, soiled but unscathed.

One is that it was discovered at all. In order to discover this, one would have to spend a fair amount of time watching a frog's butt to see if anything that came out of it walked away on its own, which, since it would be an unanticipated event, seems unlikely as a way to pass the time, even during a pandemic. But that's because you don't know Dr. Shinji Sugiura. Dr. Sugiura is a curious beetle guy. So he put a frog and the beetle into a tank and started filming. And that is how he got that prize footage of the beetle shooting out the frog's butt and swimming away. And to think that his mother had always told him he wouldn't amount to anything!

Nearly every other creature on the brink of death might be cautioned against running toward the light, but inside a dark frog, it turns out to be just the ticket. The whole trip took the beetle six minutes, which isn't enough time to be digested. Dr. Sugiura naturally wondered how the beetle accomplished the feat--swam, ran as fast as his six little legs could carry him, hitched a ride on an Express Turd--so he gummed up its legs and sent it back in, and sure enough the unfortunate insect reemerged six days later as butt juice and beetle bits. He concluded the unhampered beetle in fact ran through the acidic digestive tract making little ow noises like a barefoot kid on hot asphalt. Remarkable.

"That was smoking gun evidence that they are using their legs," agreed Nora Moskowitz, who studies frog digestion at Stanford University but wasn't involved in the study.

    [What do you do? Oh, I study frog digestion at Stanford University.
    Pleased to meet you. I’m in beetle pooping.]

This is considered a tremendous achievement on the part of the beetle, although it should be pointed out that corn kernels do pretty much the same thing all the time, and they're just vegetables.

There are other beetles that induce frogs to vomit, a.k.a. the Jonah method. Jonah was, of course, the prophet who was swallowed by a whale. He spent three days in the belly of the creature before God made it hork him up onto dry land. Many scoff at this tale and consider it an allegory of some kind, but we are assured by the good people at ChristianAnswers.net that this was a true event and they can prove it because the Bible tells us so. In a nod to skeptics and heretics, they also suggest it's possible that there is always some air in the whale's stomach, and, as long as the animal it has swallowed is still alive, digestive activity will not begin.

I did not know this about digestive activity, and had suspected stomach acids weren't that precious about the liveliness of their projects. I would consider it much more likely that God didn't create digestive juices until the millionth day. So I don't think much of this theory, and, really, neither do the good people at ChristianAnswers.net. They say the most likely explanation is that it was a Miracle. I quite agree.

But should I ever be threatened by a peckish whale, I'm going to lace up my Keds and try to go full water-beetle on the thing. That's a lot of territory to cover in a short period of time, and there are lots of hairpin turns to negotiate, but I'd do it just for the chance to be violently whooshed out in a flocculent plume, which is the form whale poop takes.

In fact, "violently whooshed out in a flocculent plume" is going to be my new euphemism for dying.

The best part of Dr. Sugiura's experiment is his working assumption that at the point the beetle skids to a halt just inside the frog's sphincter, it starts tickling it. Or maybe knocking. You got to get that thing open somehow.

And then you're off to do great things with your beetly life. In Jonah's case, he finally took up the mantle of prophet, which is what God was trying to get him to do in the first place, even though he didn't want to. It was a good decision, being a prophet. He could never say he didn't see that coming again.

h/t Uncle Walt


42 comments:

  1. I always find it amusing that Christians explain that something can be proven true because the Bible says so.

    Using that criterion, I can now state unequivocally that elves exist (Tolkien said so), dragons once existed (G.R.R. Martin said so, as did Tolkien), and time travel is possible through standing stones (Diana Gabaldon).

    This all makes explaining stuff so much easier! Just use a little recursion in your argument and you don't have to do any nasty research! Thanks for the time-saving tip, Christians!

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    1. I believe the Bible had mention of dragons also. I'll have to check with my trusty Christiananswers.net.

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    2. According to this site, they are mentioned quite a few times: https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

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    3. Some of your finer outlets try to make a distinction between biblical dragons and biblical dinosaurs, but I'll leave that to the experts.

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    4. I never knew I just couldn’t live with knowing this ..... til now. Thanks,I think.

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    5. This is the actual cause of death: the inability to live without knowing things that we don't know.

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  2. I wonder if the beetle wore a little crucifix around its neck? Then it's easy to explain how it found the back door. I'll ask Odin to back me up on this idea unless He's busy with the Midgaard Serpent again.

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  3. Oh, Mimi, you've given me impetus to add stuff to my diary for people of the future to cite. Oops! I forgot. I don't keep a diary. It'll have to be my blog.

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  4. In a nod to skeptics and heretics, they also suggest it's possible that there is always some air in the whale's stomach

    If Jonah survived because of gas in the whale's digestive tract, he would have ended up being flatulated forth back into the outer world like a human shart -- a method of arrival which would surely have struck the people of Nineveh as miraculous, while still predisposing them not to take him seriously.

    One wonders how the beetles evolved their ability to cope with this situation. Is being devoured by frogs that common in their environment? Do beetle fraternities egg on their new pledges to drunkenly brave the "frog challenge"? What if the frog is constipated? Are there marathon-runner beetles which could brave the longer digestive tract of, say, a snake? Questions abound here. Dr Sugiura could be in research grants for life if he plays his cards right.

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    1. So many questions to answer. I'll take one off the table: I'm betting there are no constipated frogs.

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  5. I spit out my coffee. Thanks. This was a clean shirt.

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    1. See, this is why I wear black all the time. It hides a multitude of spit-takes. Which is needed for this thread, which I'm enjoying thoroughly!

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    2. I have recently decided to purchase only dark t-shirts from now on. I don't have one unstained shirt.

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  6. Murr, you've outdone yourself. I laughed from the front end to the back end.

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    1. Murr, my husband can tell you that all of my shirts have dribbles down the front; but, I cannot wear black as much as I'd like - too hot.

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  7. I read this and went away and thought about it. And I STILL feel very sorry for that beetle, effectively paralysed and melted. Not a way I want to go.

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    1. Oh, you mean the gummed-up one. You should see what Studley does to mealworms, and Studley is a gentleman.

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  8. Murr: if you were a science teacher in high school, science would have been a lot more interesting! Or maybe it's biology!

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    1. It never once occurred to me to be a teacher, but in retrospect I think I would have really enjoyed it--and science woulda been my bag, too.

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  9. If we take the Bible as being inerrant, then the concept of Jonah being swallowed by a whale is wrong. The Book of Jonah clearly states he was swallowed by a great fish and Fundamentalists are usually sticklers for the Bible saying exactly what it means. That being the case, the idea that there might be breathable air inside a fish stomach is just specious.

    Fundamentalists usually trot out the story of the 19th century whaler, James Bartley, who ended up inside the stomach of a whale and was in there for some period of time before the whale was processed and Bartley was discovered still alive inside the whale's stomach, permanently bleached by the stomach acids.

    This is generally considered to be a just-so story. Its author is unknown.

    For whatever that's worth.

    Neat story about the beetle! I have to say I'm not overly surprised by it. My recollection is that anuran guts are not that complicated, so a beetle making the trip in six minutes doesn't seem like such a stretch.

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    1. But the beetle has such little legs. What a champ.

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  10. Or you could make "violently whooshed out in a flocculent plume" your epitaph.

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    1. I'm actually counting on you all to see it done.

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  11. Fluke by Christopher Moore, whooshes the protagonist out the rear of a whale although maybe not violently.

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    1. It would be nicer for the ingestee to be gently whooshed than violently expelled.

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  12. Just in case the speed thing doesn't work for humans, I'm going to avoid being swallowed by anything/everything until the day I die. After that I don't care what happens to me.

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    1. Right. I already said I'd like to be nibbled on by chickadees.

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  13. are you related to Kipling? Reads like a "Just So Stories", how the beetle got its spots.

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    1. I love the Just So Stories. Daddy read them to me when I was little. He was a big Kipling fan so who knows if those cadences lodged in me? I do have a great-grandfather who was a quite famous writer in his time, virtually unknown today. George Washington Cable.

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  14. It's amazing to me that the comments concerning your hilarious and interesting blog on the digestion of a beetle in a frog turned into ragging Christian beliefs.

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  15. I Loved this humorously insightful Post into Frogs pooping Beetles and the credibility of the Jonah experience. It was a nice respite from all the Political Noise going on.

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    1. There's only so much of that we should be listening to at this point. I do contribute to that noise though...

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  16. I will restrain myself from commenting on the part about the beetle tickling the frog's sphincter "to get that thing open somehow."

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  17. This has me laughing so hard. I had read about this beetle but your discussion of it has made it much more interesting. Am envisioning the beetle hopping along saying "ow" all through the frog's alimentary system!

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    1. Yeah, probably swimming, but it's not as good a visual.

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  18. My dark colored T-shirts don’t show mustard or beet juice, but they DO SHOW butter :-(

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