When insects get swallowed by toads, most people may think that’s it for the insect. However, researchers in Japan found at least one species of beetle can escape from the belly of the amphibian by producing a toxic gas.
The escape mechanism of the bombardier beetle, known as Pheropsophus jessoensis, was examined by researchers Shinji Sugiura and Takuya Sato in May 2016, and documented in their report published on Wednesday, while the “escape” of one beetle was caught on camera.
In the study, the pair looked into how the beetle would get out of the belly of two toad species. According to the study, the toads swallowed all bombardier beetles presented, but within 12 to 107 minutes of swallowing them, the beetles were vomited back up.
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Video captured one such lost lunch, showing the toad sitting peacefully in a container before the beetle is regurgitated onto the container. What’s more, the beetle was still alive and moving.
While many frogs and toads can easily catch insects, the report says both will spit the “toxic prey” before they swallow them to prevent damage to their stomachs.
Adult bombardier beetles produce a “hot noxious chemical spray” from the tip of the abdomen when disturbed, also shown in the video provided by Sugiura as a puff of smoke and a chemical spray.
Sugiura and Sato note in their study that of the insects presented, large beetles escaped more often than small beetles, and small toads vomited the beetles more frequently.
The results, the study says, “demonstrate the importance of the prey-predator size relationship in the successful escape of prey from inside a predator.”