Was It Designed?

The Cyphochilus Beetle’s Shell

▪ The shell of the Cyphochilus beetle has overlapping scales that are ten times thinner than a human hair. “When I put them under the electron microscope, it was like another world had opened up,” says Dr. Pete Vukusic of Exeter University in Britain. “It was totally remarkable.”

Consider: What Vukusic found was the explanation for the beetle’s bright-white color, which has nothing to do with pigment. The secret is in the size of the filaments of which the scales are made and the spacing between the filaments. This structure scatters light in an unusually efficient manner. “Industrial mineral coatings, such as those used on high quality paper, plastics and in some paints, would need to be twice as thick to be as white,” reports Science Daily.

Scientists believe that the shell of the Cyphochilus helps it blend in with a white fungus where it is often found. But experts are more interested in how the secret of this tiny beetle’s color can benefit humans​—for example, in the development of ultrawhite synthetic materials. Vukusic says that such things as the paper we write on, the color of our teeth, and even the brightness of lights “will be significantly improved if technology can take and apply the design ideas we learn from this beetle.”

What do you think? Did the white shell of the Cyphochilus beetle come about by chance? Or was it designed?

[Picture on page 24]

The “Cyphochilus” beetle is no bigger than your fingertip (photo enlarged)

[Credit Line]

Department of Entomology, Kasetsart University, Bangkok