Thursday, 9 May 2019

firebug

Whilst most denizens of the forest would run the other direction at the hint of an encroaching conflagration, Slashdot introduces us to a tiny beetle called Melanophila acuminata—commonly known as the black fire chaser, found in large swaths of Eurasia and Northern and Central America.
While the beetle brigade will charge headlong into danger, the insect able to detect the heat of a distant fire upwards of a hundred kilometers away through “eyes” highly sensitive to stochastic resonance—differentiating the gradient and threshold of ambient thermal noise, their heroism is for the preservation of their species, the larvæ eating only burnt wood. Not only have the fire chasers been known to swarm and bite human firefighters (one wonders if this super power could be harnessed as an early alarm), there are many documented cases of the beetles being attracted to other heat decoys. Poignantly, given the outbreak of wildfires in this environment, this species will probably thrive whilst others in its cadre go extinct.