4
$\begingroup$

I my game project, "The Von Neumann Project," you play as an android attempting to colonize a hostile alien world, and turn it into into a thriving factory planet. One of the many odd and wonderful species of wildlife is the thunderstruck beetle. Well, that's the male at least, the female is called the Tesla beetle. These guys are large, beetle-like creatures adapted to live in the mineral-rich mountains of the planet. Much of the plant life there is rich in copper, and so thunderstruck beetles have evolved a copper carapace. This is where their name comes in. The males have a tall horn protruding from their head to attract females and build their harem, but they also have another use. During thunderstorms, these protrusions act as lightning rods, causing lightning to strike them far more often. This is where tesla beetles come in; they have a horn structure that causes them to harness the lightning striking a nearby male, and redirect it in the direction they're facing. However, I have a problem. Why would these beetles have these structures in the first place? And, how would they survive the lightning strike? So, here is my question: How can I make these beetles feasible in biology? Feel free to suggest any changes I should make to their design.

$\endgroup$
7
  • $\begingroup$ unless the project is named after Lindsay Vonn, you probably mean "von". $\endgroup$
    – ths
    Nov 18, 2021 at 21:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I see two distinct questions. How is it biologically feasible and why they have this behaviour. I have a host of suggestions for the behaviour, like reproduction or essential part of ecology how the lightning is directed. But the biology part is something very different. Could you separate these? $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Nov 18, 2021 at 21:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Trioxidane I have made changes to the question. I hope it helps. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2021 at 22:36
  • $\begingroup$ @ths Ah, I thought there was something off. Thank you. $\endgroup$ Nov 19, 2021 at 22:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I think there's a misunderstanding. We request one question per post, not one answer. As you need to select a best answer there's no real way for you to pick one answer over the other if one answers biology and the other behaviour. Could you split these questions by making a new post as well as editing this one? You can have the same introduction, but the main question needs to be one or the other. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Nov 19, 2021 at 23:10

2 Answers 2

2
$\begingroup$

The problem with thunderstruck beetles is that they'd have to have a particularly high lightning rod in order to reliably attract a lightning bolt. In order to attract a lightning bolt, a conductor must project perhaps 20 to 50 meters above the surrounding landscape and its high points. This would be a rather large beetle, in that case...

The problem with the tesla beetle is that it has no way to attract a lightning bolt conducted through a thunderstruck beetle. However, if thunderstruck beetles have long, insulating legs, and a tesla beetle has conducting legs, getting close enough to a thunderstruck beetle as it is struck by lightning could cause the charge to discharge through the thunderstruck beetle's carapace, then through the air to the tesla beetle, and from there through its conducting carapace and legs to the ground.

If there was no tesla beetle nearby, a thunderstruck beetle would likely stand with its carapace nearer the ground so that if struck by lightning, the bolt would ground from a projection on the underside of the carapace to the ground rather than through its insulating legs.

Injuries from lightning strikes come from the extreme heat generated as the bolt travels through a high-resistance medium such as flesh, causing severe burns. Along with the electric charge potentially causing cardiac arrhythmias, this is the chief cause of fatalities.

These beetles, having highly conductive copper carapaces could readily conduct the charge around their more vulnerable organs, and if thick enough, would suffer little heating.

As to why the beetles would do this... perhaps it has something to do with mating. Perhaps the female is looking for a male big enough to attract lightning, and won't actually get pregnant until struck by a lightning bolt herself, which would increase her temperature enough to trigger the necessary next phase of the breeding cycle. Sexual selection can cause all sorts of otherwise impractical traits to be selected.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

Lay trails

Your beetles are a little like snails, leaving a trail behind them as they forage. However, these trails are fine filaments of spun copper, which add up as many beetles forage in the same patterns. The males leave these trails up and down trees, protecting them from the violent lightning storms that ravage the forests far more severely than Earthly woodlands.

The females have a stranger adaptation. When the lightning passes down the trail, on which they also lay threads lower in the canopy, it momentarily causes an electrical discharge from the female's horn. This discharge is a powerful spark of static electricity, which is mixed with highly charged microscopic pollen-like balls, in which the fertilized zygotes of the beetles are encased. This disseminates the eggs far and wide in the storm winds, and gives them a charge comparable to the ground's "return stroke" of the lightning that pulls them higher upward into the atmosphere. This means of dispersal has helped to ensure that the beetles always reseed forested plots despite the frequency of fires that cleanse them of herbivorous insects.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .