Diary From the Desert
- a colour changing beetle
--- Ashwin Baindur *
"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein
Yesterday (13 Jun 06), at around 0830 hrs, at a dolomite mine near Chacha village, 20 odd kms from Pokaran on the Jodhpur-Jaisalmer road, my son Aashay saw a beetle scurrying very quickly on the ground. The beetle was white with part black markings. We chased
it trying to catch the dodging creature. It was so active that it escaped from our scooped hands many times. We took a number of shots. Over the course of our encounter, to our amazement it gradually turned black with a very thin white edging only. The local
people told us that it would recover to the first pattern after 15 minutes or so.
Another experience from the desert this time! The beetle turned out to be a Tenebrionid. The probable explanation for this phenomenon was given by Doug Yanega, an eminent American entomologist and curator is that the Tenebrionid has a cuticle wax layer which
turns dark on absorbing moisture. He said that it reflects sunshine when moisture is less but absorbs more when moisture is greater. It appears our efforts to catch, our breath etc may have triggered the colour change. But this is a hypothesis as of now.
This is where we found the beetle. See below.
( Text and photos Lt. Col. Ashwin Baindur, Col at Indian Army commanding an Engineer Regiment at Indian Army)