Dung beetles plant seedsaccording to ScienceShots and New Scientist News 5 October 2015, and Nature Plants doi:10.1038/nplants.2015.141, 5 October 2015. Scientists in South Africa who were studying a tall grassy plant named Ceratocaryum argenteum suspected that its seeds were being dispersed by field mice, but when they left cameras to record them they found beetles, not mice, were rolling the seeds away.

The scientists then set out 195 seeds with fluorescent threads tied to them at a number of places in De Hoop Nature Reserve. A day later dung beetles had moved and buried about one quarter of the seeds.

The seeds are approximately one centimetre (half inch) long and similar in size, shape and colour to the droppings of a small antelope named the Bontebok. The scientists tested the seeds chemically and found they contained volatile substances also found in bontebok droppings. This means the seeds not only look like Bontebok droppings, they smell like them. Furthermore, Bonteboks do not get these substances from eating this plant, because they don’t eat it. Therefore, it is not a matter of these chemicals simply being recycled.

The scientists suggest the plant evolved the smell to deceive beetles into dispersing the seeds. They wrote in the report: “As the seeds are hard and offer no reward to the dung beetles, this is a remarkable example of deception in plant seed dispersal”.

Jeremy Midgley of Cape Town University, one of the researchers, commented: “There has been a lot of chemical evolution going on to get the beetles to do the job”.

New Scientist, Science Shots

Editorial Comment: There may be a lot of chemistry going on, but there is no chemical evolution happening at all. There was no reason or means for this plant to develop the genes and biochemical pathways for making these volatile chemicals simply because there are dung beetles and antelopes in the area where it grows.

This system of seed dispersal would not work unless a creative designer, who made both the Bonteboks, and the beetles as well as the plants, set it up with the appropriate genes and chemical machinery in the plants to make the smelly chemicals, plus the right smell receptors in the beetle so it could respond to them.

This is a good reminder that design goes beyond the structures and functions of an individual organism. The way in which living things interact with one another and their physical/chemical environment, is just as much evidence for God’s creative design as the amazing chemistry within living things.

It is also a reminder that all components of the earth’s ecosystems had to be functioning from the beginning. A partly evolved ecosystem can’t wait for any missing creatures or smells to evolve. Millions of years of randomness won’t work. Six days with a smart Designer will. (Ref. ecology, environment, insects, botany)

Evidence News vol. 15 No. 24
9 December 2015
Creation Research Australia