Toads are no match for the bombardier beetle.
In fact, according to new research recently published in the journal “Biology Letters,” even after being swallowed for nearly two hours, the beetles managed to ooze their way out.
Japanese scientists captured footage of the sweet escape as they pitted the bombardier beetles against hungry toads of various species and sizes.
Researcher Shinji Sugiura, an agricultural scientist at Kobe University, said an “explosion was audible” inside the toads soon after they swallowed the beetles.
“It makes this squeaky pop,” Wendy Moore, an entomologist at the University of Arizona who was not involved in the study, told National Geographic. “It’s shocking. It really gets your attention, and it’s definitely effective against collectors.”
Once ingested, the bombardier beetles shot hot, toxic chemical bombs — a mix of hydrogen peroxide and hydroquinones — from their hindquarters, causing the toads to vomit them back up. According to National Geographic, the chemicals are irritants and can damage the skin and lungs.
“The spray, which is about 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) and is incredibly stinky, is the result of some mysterious evolution that scientists are still trying to understand,” Mother Nature Network reported.
The Japanese scientists found that some beetles were thrown up within 15 minutes, and others remained in the toads’ stomachs for nearly two hours. To examine whether or not the chemical attacks were really key to their survival, the scientists disarmed a group of beetles by triggering their hot sprays until the chemicals ran out, and then left them alone with toads. Only 5 percent of those swallowed were vomited up.
They also studied the chemical defenses against the Japanese common toad Bufo japonicus, a common predator of the bombardier beetle. Given how regularly the toad interacts with the beetle, the scientists believed it may have developed a tolerance to the chemical spray. But just 40 minutes after swallowing its prey, the toad vomited up the beetle.
It’s the first time researchers have spotted the bombardier beetle sing its rear assault technique to attack predators and escape after being swallowed.
And while other animals have escaped being swallowed by their predators (a live blindsnake once passed through a toad’s entire digestive system), this is the one of the first times an entire species has used the defense strategy, according to National Geographic.
You can watch the footage of the bombardier beetle’s great escape below: