Termite Towers & Filter-Feeders

Termite Towers & Filter-Feeders

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  (2nd Timothy 3:7)


“Cathedral mounds” built by Australian termites (Wikipedia photo)

The failure of many evolutionists, to see what they are looking at (i.e., to see what is “hidden in plain view”) is comparable to an error British Celts made when Julius Caesar attacked Britain’s shores, at Kent in 54 BC.

The native Celts reported Caesar’s beach landing as an attack by combined armies of Rome, Libya, and Syria.(1) Unlike Romans, British Celts never recruited multi-ethnic mercenaries, so the Britons misinterpreted the invaders as a horde of allied (but separate) armies.(1) Likewise, evolutionists now misunderstand many facts “in plain view”, due to erroneous assumptions.

The evolutionary ecology concept of “ecosystem engineering” was recently introduced in an earlier study(2) to show how some evolutionists are improving their understanding of how proactive animals are, in altering ecosystems—yet those same evolutionists continue to miss the best lessons that these animals can teach us.(2)

Two such misunderstandings are considered below.


When considering the “ecosystem engineering” concept’s utility, some ecologists try to limit the concept’s application to animal-produced habitat alterations that are impactfully “big”, as opposed to minimal. Thus, beaver dams and coral reefs are recognized as “big enough” to qualify as “ecosystem engineering” habitat modifications.(2)  But “little” habitat alterations, like bird-nests and prairie burrows, are often dismissed as de minimis—not worthy of comparable attention.(2)

However, when evaluating ecological activity, this is a “bigger-is-better” fallacy. Which is more “important”, ecologically speaking, a huge elephant—or a microscopic yet deadly virus?

Also, when evaluating whether animal activity is “big enough”, to be ecologically “important”, applying anthropocentric perspectives is unrealistic.

For example, consider how deadwood-eating termites aggressively modify their neighborhoods, using saliva-soil mud, building air-conditioned mud “chimneys” above interconnected subsurface tunnels.

Mounds built by Australia’s Amitermes merionalis termites can be taller than 12’ tall, 8’ wide, and 3’ deep underground.(3)

For adult humans, of heights 6’ tall (more or less), this is impressive, but perhaps not shockingly so.  However, to better appraise these physical construction feats, consider that Amitermes “worker” termites are about a third-of-an-inch long.  The termites-to-mound height ratio is 432:1 (12’-tall mound, compared to 1/3-of-an-inch-long termite), comparable to humans constructing spit-mud mounds 2592’ high—almost double the Empire State Building’s height!

So, to a “worker” termite, its mound “chimney” is an enormous skyscraper!


Cheetah atop Termit Mound in Namibia   (Seeding Labs photo)

Other examples could be given.

The world’s largest bay, the Chesapeake, is burdened with excess nitrogen and organic nutrients that people repeatedly release into its tributaries.

HookedMussels-on-Oysters.MdDeptNaturalResourcesOysters with Mussels   (Chesapeake Bay Program)

Oyster reefs, bolstered by attached mussels, filtering huge volumes of bay water, consume otherwise-unrestrained (nitrogen-compound-fueled) growth of picoplankton (comprising ~15% of bay phytoplankton biomass, during summer), preventing unchecked algal blooms that would block sunlight from submergent aquatic plants, leading to oxygen-depleted “dead zones”.(4)

Thankfully, the combined filtering of Eastern Oysters and Hooked Mussels provides estuarial water clean-up services, “hidden in plain sight”, ultimately benefiting dissolved oxygen needs of the interactive Chesapeake Bay’s ecosystem.(4)


Please, don’t praise bivalve brainpower, for figuring all of this out!—oysters and mussels are neither bioengineering-savvy ecosystem designers, nor conservation scientists.

Likewise, don’t fête the Australian Amitermes termites, as if they were brilliant architects, construction engineers, or HVAC experts!—they’re just bioengineered bugs.

Rather, give due glory to creation’s Architect and Bioengineer, the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:7), for He has built and maintains all of these “small-yet-great” super-interactive ecosystems (Revelation 4:11).



(1)William R. Cooper, After the Flood (Chichester, England: New Wine Press, 1995), 58-59, citing Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae.  (Don’t expect to ever find a more insightful or godlier scholar of Anglo-Saxon history than Laird Bill Cooper!)

(2) “Ecosystem engineering” analysis improves upon earlier “keystone species” concepts, yet ultimately fails to identify the true cause and logic underlying animal successes in filling various habitats. James J. S. Johnson, “Ecosystem Engineering Explanations Miss the Mark”, Acts & Facts, 48(3):20-21 (March 2019), illustrating 2 Timothy 3:7.  Evolutionists’ failure to recognize God as the divine Architect-Bioengineer is illustrated by recent ecology literature on “ecosystem engineering”, e.g., Jones, C. G., J. H. Lawton, & M. Shachak, “Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers”, Oikos. 69:373-386 (1994); Wright, J. and C. G. Jones, “The Concept of Organisms as Ecosystem Engineers Ten Years On: Progress, Limitations, and Challenges”, BioScience. 56(3):203-209 (2006).  With all the Darwinist emphasis on antagonistic competition between species, the ecological realities of mutualistic neighborliness in biotic communities was downplayed and/or dismissed. See, accord, James J. S. Johnson, “Misreading Earth’s Groanings: Why Evolutionists and Intelligent Design Proponents Fail Ecology 101”, Acts & Facts. 39 (8):8-9 (August 2010); James J. S. Johnson, “Grand Canyon Neighbors: Pines, Truffles, and Squirrels”, Acts & Facts. 47(10):21 (October 2018); James J. S. Johnson, “Cactus, Bats, and Christmas Gift-Giving”, Acts & Facts. 46 (12):21 (December 2017).  See also, accord, Randy J. Guliuzza, “Engineered Adaptability: Fast Adaptation Confirms Design-Based Model”, Acts & Facts. 47(9):18-20 (September 2018); Randy J. Guliuzza, “Engineered Adaptability: Sensor Triggers Affirm Intelligently Designed Internalism”, Acts & Facts. 47(2):17-19 (February 2018).

(3) Gordon C. Grigg, “Some Consequences of the Shape and Orientation of ‘Magnetic’ Termite Mounds”, Australian Journal of Zoology, 21:231-237 (1973), noting how Amitermes meridionalis termite mounds sometimes 4 meters high.

(4) Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, “Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits”, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (2014). See also Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater Bivalves Flexing their Muscles as Water Filterers”, Chesapeake Bay Journal, 28(7):1 (October 2018), cited in “Have You Thanked God for Mussels Lately?”, Bibleworld Adventures (Nov. 12, AD2019), posted at https://bibleworldadventures.com/2018/11/12/have-you-thanked-god-for-mussels-lately/ .  See also, for further discussion of estuariah ecosystem benefits contributed by oysters and mussels, Loren D. Coen, Robert D. Brumbaugh, David Bushek, Ray Grizzle, mark W. Luckenbach, Martin H. Posey, Sean P. Powers, & S. Gregory Tolley, “Ecosystem Services Related to oyster Restoration”, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 341:303-307 (July 2007), saying: “Although further discussion and research leading to a more complete understanding is required, oysters and other molluscs (e.g., mussels) in estuarine ecosystems provide services far beyond the mere top-down control of phytoplankton blooms, such as (1) seston filtration, (2) benthic-pelagic coupling, (3) creation of refugia from predation, (4) creation of feeding habitat for juveniles and adults of mobile species, and for sessile stages of species that attach to molluscan shells, and (5) provision of nesting habitat.”  Obviously God is the ultimate multi-tasking Bioengineer!


TERMITES UNDERGROUND!  Pestkilled.com photograph

HOT DESERTS: Lethal to Some, Yet Home to Others


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.  (ISAIAH 35:1)


VINEGAROON WHIP-SCORPION (photo credit: Things Biological blog)

In deserts the temps climb quite high,

With scarce rain, those lands get quite dry;

Such climes can be torrid,

For some that is horrid —

Yet yuccas can cope when it’s dry.


Yes, deserts are truly alive;

Harsh heat some critters survive;

Like cactus blooms brilliant,

And lizards resilient —

There sagebrush and rattlesnakes thrive.

(The above limerick I have titled “Hot Deserts: Lethal to Some, Yet Home to Others”.)

COMMENTARY:  As Isaiah 35:1 indicates, the glory of the Lord is displayed even in desert places (including arid wildernesses that most of us would consider wastelands), where even cactus flowers blossom with bright colors and beauty, attracting pollinators, as their succulent tissues store water for desert birds such as Gila woodpeckers.  God’s glory is displayed in the magnificent variety of creatures (including the exotic Vinegaroon scorpion!) and habitats He has decorated the earth with.

It is the adventure and privilege of mankind, created in God’s own image – and redeemed by the blood of God incarnate  — to learn of these treasures in God’s creation, and to appreciate God for showcasing His power and wisdom in such humbles creatures as such desert denizens, who daily brave the hot and arid extremes, living and in desert places.


Striking Rattlesnake



James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, MSGeog, CNHG


Hooked Mussels attached to Oysters, Chesapeake Bay oyster-reef
(Chris Judy / Maryland Dep’t of Natural Resources photo)

And it shall come to pass, that everything that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall go, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall go there, for they shall be healed; and everything shall live where the river goes.   (Ezekiel 47:9)

Healthy rivers are a good thing. But sometimes a “hero” is needed, to clean up unhealthy rivers, or to “keep clean” rivers that will otherwise go bad.

Tough “clean-up” jobs, as well as “keep-it-clean” maintenance jobs, are often accomplished by unsung heroes. For example, the tough job of cleaning up water quality (and the job of maintaining water quality) in coastal wetlands requires some helpful muscles, such as those of the Chesapeake Bay’s mussels!  So, shouldn’t such helpful bivalves be given due credit, for what they do?

Mussels, once mostly ignored, are now being touted for their ability to clean streams much like oysters do for the Bay. Oysters are in many ways the restoration darlings of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. Touted for multiple benefits — as edible, water-filtering moneymakers — oysters attract both enthusiasm and funding to promote their recovery.

But the popularity of oysters often overshadows the water-cleansing role of other filter feeders such as mussels. A growing group of mussel advocates think it’s high time that the bivalves share the spotlight as clean-water workhorses that can carry the message farther upstream.

 Projects to propagate mussels and restore them to waterways where they once thrived are cropping up in parts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania as researchers working on them in various states begin to join efforts. The goal is to return some of the diversity once found in these waterways — mussel by mussel — so they can filter, feed, clean and otherwise serve the local ecosystem.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1 (October 2018).]

So, what service do mussels provide, such as the mussels which dwell in Chesapeake Bay watershed streams and estuarial wetlands?

Research in Chesapeake Bay shows that the mussels that typically colonize a restored oyster reef can more than double the reef’s overall filtration capacity. Filtering plankton helps improve water quality because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels. …

Restoring oysters — and their ability to filter large volumes of water — is widely seen as a key way to improve the health of Chesapeake Bay. New research makes this calculus even more appealing, showing that the mussels that typically colonize the nooks and crannies of a restored oyster reef can more than double its overall filtration capacity.

The study — by researchers at the University of Maryland, the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center, and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science — appears as the cover story in the most recent issue of Restoration Ecology [i.e., Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

“Many efforts to restore coastal habitat focus on planting just one species, such as oysters, mangroves, or seagrass,” says [University of Maryland]’s Keryn Gedan, the study’s lead author. “However, our research shows that the positive effects of diverse ecosystems can be much greater. In the case of oyster reefs, commonly associated species such as mussels may multiply the water quality benefits of restoration by filtering more and different portions of the plankton.”

“Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by a restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects,” adds [Virginia Institute of Marine Science] scientist Lisa Kellogg. “By quantifying the significant role that mussels can play in filtration within an oyster-reef habitat, our work shows that the ‘return on investment’ for oyster-reef restoration is potentially much higher than commonly thought.”

Filtering plankton helps improve water quality [and thus functions as an “ecosystem engineer”  —  JJSJ comment] because these tiny drifting organisms thrive on the excess nitrogen and other nutrients that humans release into the Bay and its tributaries through farming, wastewater outflow, and the burning of fossil fuels.

“Filtering plankton from the water is the first step towards removing nutrients,” says Kellogg. “Although some will be returned to the water column, a significant portion will be removed from the system.” Removing plankton also has more direct benefits. Left unchecked, plankton can form dense blooms that shade other aquatic plants such as seagrass, and can lead to low-oxygen “dead zones” when they die, sink, and decay.

The research team, which also included SERC’s Denise Breitburg, based their findings on a combination of laboratory experiments and computer modeling. In the lab, they added phytoplankton of different size classes to tanks containing eastern oysters (Crassostrea virginica) or hooked mussels (Ischadium recurvum), then measured the animals’ filtration rates at different temperatures. They then incorporated these measured rates into a simple model and used that to simulate overall filtration for three different restoration scenarios in Harris Creek, Maryland, one of the East Coast’s largest oyster-reef restoration sites.

Kellogg’s main contribution to the paper was data on the relative abundance of oysters, mussels, and other organisms inhabiting restored oyster reefs collected during her time as a post-doctoral researcher at Maryland’s Horn Point Lab. These data, which showed that the biomass of mussels on a restored reef can equal or exceed that of the oysters, were used as baselines for the model projections.

The results of that modeling were clear. “On average,” says Gedan, “adding filtration by hooked mussels into our model increased the filtration capacity of the reef by more than two-fold.”

Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton,” says Breitburg. Picoplankton are the smallest category of marine plankton, ranging from about 1.5 to 3 microns (a human red blood cell is about 5 microns across). Picoplankton are particularly abundant in Chesapeake Bay during summer, with an earlier study from the York River showing they can make up nearly 15% of phytoplankton “biomass” during the warmer months.

“Some have suggested that oyster reef restoration will be less effective than expected in controlling phytoplankton populations because of oysters’ inability to filter picoplankton,” says Kellogg. “Our discoveries with mussels lessen that concern.”

“The mussels’ ability to filter the picoplankton indicates that they fill a distinct ecological niche,” adds Gedan. “Accounting for both oyster and mussel filtration, large-scale restoration projects like those going on in Chesapeake Bay could significantly control phytoplankton, especially during the summer months, when animals filter the most.”

The bottom line, says Gedan, is that “estimates of the ecosystem services provided by just the oysters on an oyster reef may vastly underrepresent the reefs’ overall contribution. Because oyster reefs also contain many other filter-feeding species, they will likely benefit water quality much more than previous modeling efforts suggest.” Kellogg is now taking this line of research further, studying how another common oyster-reef inhabitant — an organism called a tunicate — might also contribute to gains in water quality. Tunicates, fleshy animals also known as sea squirts, filter plankton and other particles from the water similarly to oysters and mussels.

[Quoting Virginia Institute of Marine Science, “Study Puts Some Mussels into Chesapeake Bay Restoration”, 9-8-AD2014, at ScienceDaily.com posting https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/09/140908121538.htm .]

Summarized in technical ecology lingo, the researchers abstract their findings on mussel filter-cleaning as follows:

Many coastal habitat restoration projects are focused on restoring the population of a single foundation species to recover an entire ecological community. Estimates of the ecosystem services provided by the restoration project are used to justify, prioritize, and evaluate such projects. However, estimates of ecosystem services provided by a single species may vastly under‐represent true provisioning, as we demonstrate here with an example of oyster reefs, often restored to improve estuarine water quality.

In the brackish Chesapeake Bay, the hooked mussel Ischadium recurvum can have greater abundance and biomass than the focal restoration species, the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica. We measured the temperature‐dependent phytoplankton clearance rates of both bivalves and their filtration efficiency on three size classes of phytoplankton to parameterize an annual model of oyster reef filtration, with and without hooked mussels, for monitored oyster reefs and restoration scenarios in the eastern Chesapeake Bay.

The inclusion of filtration by hooked mussels increased the filtration capacity of the habitat greater than 2fold. Hooked mussels were also twice as effective as oysters at filtering picoplankton (1.5–3 µm), indicating that they fill a distinct ecological niche by controlling phytoplankton in this size class, which makes up a significant proportion of the phytoplankton load in summer.

When mussel and oyster filtration are accounted for in this, albeit simplistic, model, restoration of oyster reefs in a tributary scale restoration is predicted to control 100% of phytoplankton during the summer months.

[Quoting Keryn B. Gedan, Lisa Kellogg, & Denise L. Breitburg, Accounting for Multiple Foundation Species in Oyster Reef Restoration Benefits, Restoration Ecology, 22(4):517 (May 2014), DOI: 10.1111/rec.12107 ]

Wow! Good for the Eastern Oysters, for their work in filter-cleaning Chesapeake Bay estuarial picoplankton, yet compliments also to the Hooked Mussels for their respective contributions to the clean-up work!  (This illustrates good teamwork!)

But it’s not just the brackish waters of Chesapeake Bay wetlands that host mussels. (Thus, there are other waters that benefit from mussel cleaning.)  In fact, mussels often thrive in riverine freshwater habitats other than those which limnologists would classify as “coastal wetlands”.


Texas Freshwater Mussel life cycle   (Texas Parks & Wildlife Dep’t image)

In Texas, for example, freshwater mussels are both plentiful and diverse, living in both lotic (running) and lentic (standing) bodies of water.

Freshwater mussels may inhabit a variety of water-body types including large and small rivers and streams, lakes, ponds, canals, and reservoirs. More stable habitats may have larger and more diverse populations than do smaller and less stable waters.  Some species tolerate a wide variety of conditions [e.g., various bottom types, currents, water depths, water pH and other chemistry factors, water clarity, amount of sunlight, turbidity, aquatic vegetation, percentage of dissolved oxygen saturation, water temperature, biotic community make-up, etc.], but others may be more specific.  Certain mussels may require moderate to swiftly flowing waters, and typically fail to survive in lakes or impoundments.

Headwater spring pools and streams in Texas Hill Country typically harbor few if any mussels largely because the cool, clear waters lack sufficient phytoplankton and other foods needed to support mussel populations. A few species like pondhorns (Uniomerus spp.) occur in temporary ponds and periodically-dry portions of intermittent streams by burrowing into the substrate during dewatering.

[Quoting Robert G. Howells, Raymond W. Neck, & Harold D. Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS (Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, Inland Fisheries Division, 1996), page 14.]

In Texas, for instance, freshwater mussels —  especially dozens of varieties of unionid mussels (freshwater-dwelling mollusk bivalves a/k/a “naiads”)  —  have flourished for centuries in the enormously biodiverse bayou-waters of Caddo Lake, Texas’ sole “natural lake” (which borders Louisiana).

However, freshwater mussels have also been studied in these major river systems of the Lone Star State:

Canadian River (only slim pickings in these Panhandle-traversing waters); Red River (serving as the Texas-Oklahoma border to Arkansas, swelling at the artificially expanded Lake Texoma, favoring mussel populations including unionids such as pondshell, pondhorn, and yellow sandshell, as well as some clams);

Sulphur River (a Red River tributary, once intensively fished for mussels);

Big Cypress Bayou (a tributary of Caddo Lake, once fished for mussel pearls);

Sabine River (flowing to Texas’ border with Louisiana, then into the Gulf of Mexico, once intensively fished for mussels);

Neches River, including its tributary Angelina River (flowing through Texas piney woodlands, with no recent major harvesting of mussels);

Trinity River, flowing into Trinity Bay (pollution has been a historic problem, killing off mussel populations, though some unionids are observed within Lake Lewisville, an artificially formed reservoir-tributary of the Trinity River drainage system);

San Jacinto River (flowing north of Houston, draining into Trinity Bay, hosting washboard and threeridge mussels – as evidence by mussels stranded in dewatered areas during droughts);

Brazos River (Texas’ longest river between the Red River and the Rio Grande, hosting unionids in its tributary Navasota River);

Colorado River (containing unionid mussels in several of its tributaries);

Lavaca River (no significant mussels observed);

Guadalupe River, with its primary tributary San Antonio River, plus other tributaries including Blanco River and San Marcos River (sporadically hosting washboards and other river mussels);

Nueces River (flowing into Nueces Bay, with muddier tributaries hosting some mussels); and the Rio Grande, including its tributary Pecos River (separating Texas from Mexico, and variously hosting some unionid mussels).

[For specific biogeography details, see Howells, Neck, & Murray, FRESHWATER MUSSELS OF TEXAS, pages 29-32.]

The water-filtering benefits of wetland mussels are worthy of appreciation; however, not every impact of mussels is advantageous, as is illustrated by the invasive (and pervasive) nuisance known as the non-unionid Zebra Mussel (Dreissena polymorpha).  The miniscule Zebra Mussel is not covered as a topic, here, except to notice that it has caused a lot of disturbing and non-miniscule impacts in many freshwater lakes of America and Europe, from one water-body to another, due to over-land transport as attachments to the hulls of recreational boats.  [Regarding Zebra Mussel nuisance impacts, see Winfried Lampert & Ulrich Sommer, LIMNOECOLOGY: THE ECOLOGY OF LAKES AND STREAMS, 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2010), pages 123 & 224-225.]

Freshwater mussels come in all shapes and sizes, with nicknames that indicate their unique forms or textures, such as snuffbox, spectacle-case, pimple-back and pistol-grip. Most live in rivers or streams, some others in lakes and ponds, but all rely on a current of water to provide phytoplankton and bacteria that they filter-feed from the water. Some species can live to be more than 100 years old. They also have a complex life cycle that makes them difficult — but not impossible — to reproduce in hatcheries. Most need a fish to act as a host as they start their life: The larvae find shelter and grow in fish gills until they can navigate the waters on their own. Some mussels create lures to draw in their preferred host, and some clamp onto the fish with trap-like mouths. If the fish species preferred by a certain mussel disappears, the mussel does, too.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to analyze the benefits of coastal wetland mussels, such as those which are quietly filter-cleaning wetland waters within the Chesapeake Bay drainage watershed, someone needs to carefully study them.

But, since most of these mollusks are not commercially exploited, who will pay for the scientific research on these humble bivalves?

Other parts of the country, such as the Tennessee River system and Delaware Bay, have seen the fruit that comes from investing in mussel propagation and research. Meanwhile, mussels have often fallen below the radar of Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. That may be because freshwater mussels, unlike oysters or some saltwater mussels, don’t end up on human plates.

Research and restoration funding is harder to come by, even though three-quarters of freshwater mussel species are considered to be at some level of impairment. The money often comes in an off-and-on fashion from mitigation payments for environmental disasters and permit renewals, and partners in the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort community have not focused their resources on mussels. … Many of the mussel advocates who gathered along the James River in July first interacted with the mollusks outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed — in the Clinch River, which rises in the southwest corner of Virginia and flows into Tennessee. The Clinch River is home to most of Virginia’s 81 mussel species, more than a third of which are endangered. The diversity of mussels found there has made the river a hotspot for research nationally. …

The Harrison Lake facility [i.e., the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery, located along the James River south of Richmond, Virginia – an activity of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of the Interior], built in the 1930s to support recreational fisheries, now has the capacity to grow tens of millions of mussels. Over the last decade, the facility transitioned from a focus on migratory fish species such as American shad to also growing tiny glochidia, the name for larval-stage mussels, into young mollusks.

When Dominion’s Bremo Power Station renewed its water discharge permit, the hatchery got more than a half-million dollars from the deal after a threatened mussel was found to be impacted by its discharge. When DuPont had to pay $42 million to settle a case over mercury contamination of the South River, the hatchery got $4 million. The coal ash spill in the Dan River in 2014 brought in additional funds to help replenish mussel species that might have been lost.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

HarrisonLake-hatchery-sign.USFWSThe Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery employs a staff of five – and their aquaculture efforts are producing results.

The hatchery team used to release tiny mussels into portions of the James watershed and hope for the best. Now, the staff has the technology to grow them “almost indefinitely” at the facility to a large enough size that they have much better survival rates in the wild. The center propagates the mussels by collecting female mussels that already have larvae in their gills, which the staff either extracts with a needle (to mimic a fish rubbing against it) or allows the mussel to release. Placed into tanks with their host fish, the larvae will attach to the fish before dropping off two to four weeks later to continue feeding and growing in a series of tanks. The lab is also working on in vitro fertilization for mussel species whose host fish is not known.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

In order to track progress, regarding the future growth and activities of mussels released to “the wild”, the hatchery uses a monitoring system that is analogous to bird-banding  —  the hatchery laser-etches identifying code markings onto the shell of a mussel, before release.  Also, some rare mussels receive special tagging.

At the hatchery, in a squat building paid for by the Bremo mitigation funds, biological science technician Bryce Maynard demonstrated methods used to tag and track the progress of mussels grown here before being launched into wild waters. He flipped the switch on a laser engraver that can carve numbers into several rows of mussels at a time, leaving a burnt-hair smell in the air and marking thousands of mussels a day for future tracking. Among the hatchery mussels are rare species such as the James spinymussel, which was once abundant in the James River upstream of Richmond but disappeared from most of its range by the late 1980s. The hatchery-raised spinymussels are marked with tags sealed in place with dental cement. The tags can be located later with a beeping detector but are costlier than other tracking methods.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

So what is the main benefit expected from these costly investment? Besides overall enhancing of the coastal wetland ecosystems, water filtering is expected, since that is what mussels are famous for.

Every mussel that finds its way into the watershed and survives could help filter about 10 liters of water per day, said Danielle Kreeger, senior science director at the Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, where she’s become an advocate for the potential of what she calls the #mightymussel.  “Pound for pound, freshwater mussels are not slouches,” she said  …  “To me, every mussel is precious, and we need to protect them.”  Kreeger, in the coming months, will be completing a review of studies on the ability of such bivalves to enhance water quality, which she hopes will shore up the amount of data available about mussels’ benefits.

[Quoting Whitney Pipkin, “Freshwater bivalves flexing their muscles as water filterers”, CHESAPEAKE BAY JOURNAL, 28(7):1,17 (October 2018).]

To be clear, the Harrison Lake National Fish Hatchery is not limited to hatching mussels for the Chesapeake Bay’s tributary waters.

In fact, the USF&W operation there is, as one would expect, focused largely on piscatorial aquaculture, i.e., hatching fish, especially American Shad, as well as some alewife, blueback herring, hickory shad, and striped bass. [See “Harrison Lake national Fish Hatchery”, https://www.fws.gov/harrisonlake/ summary by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.]

But for now, the take-away lesson is an appreciation for mussels: they are a lot more important than most of us think they are.


Harrison Lake Nat’l Fish Hatchery: fish hosts carrying mussel larvae    (B. Davis / USF&WS photo)

But why are they, as Dr. Kreeger says, “precious”? Because God created them  —  it was God Who gave Chesapeake Bay mussels, as well as Texas riverine mussels, their intrinsic value.  As God’s creatures they display His workmanship – God’s creative bioengineering is exhibited (“plainly seen”) in all animals, including humble mussels.

Accordingly, as some of the many (albeit small and usually unseen) creatures whom God chose to create (and to “fill” diverse wetland habitats), mussels deserve due credit, for doing what God has programmed them to do, including filter-cleaning wetland waters.

So, good for the mussels, good for the water supply, and that’s all good for us —  and therefore we should give glory unto God, because God is due credit for making estuarial and river-dwelling mussels what they are.                               ><> JJSJ  profjjsj@aol.com

Dr. James J. S. Johnson freely admits that his appreciation for mussels did not begin with learning about how they contribute to filter-cleaning estuarial waters, but rather from his eating lots of tasty blue mussels when visiting New England.

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

Dr. Konrad Gessner, 16th-Century Creation Scientist

James J. S. Johnson

For the invisible things of Him [i.e., God] from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and deity, so that they are without excuse.   (Romans 1:20)


Dr. Konrad Gessner (also spelled “Conrad Gesner”), who lived from AD1516 to AD1565, was a true Reformation-grounded biologist and ecologist, as well as an accomplished intellectual in other fields. Gessner was born and originally educated in Zürich, Switzerland, the Protestant city pastored first by Ulrich Zwingli, then next by Heinrich Bullinger (a personal friend of Gessner). During AD1532-1536 he studied at various universities in Strasbourg, Bourges, and Basel.

In AD1537 he taught as professor of Greek in Lausanne, yet soon afterwards began science studies leading to a Medical Doctor’s degree in AD1541 (in Basel). Returning to Zürich, he taught science there for most of the rest of his life. Dr. Gessner authored scholarly works on various subjects, such as:

  • botanical studies (including subalpine flowers) in AD1541, with more in AD1542;
  • a bibliographic encyclopedia of world literature in AD1545, with supplements in AD1548-1549;
  • zoological studies (mammals, birds, fishes, etc.) in AD1551-1558;
  • comparative language studies (on 22 translations of The Lord’s Prayer) in AD1555;
  • doxological mountain hiking, mixed with montane ecology, in AD1555.

Dr. Gessner’s research on snakes and insects was published posthumously. In AD1541, Gessner resolved to climb at least one mountain each year, a habit he thereafter maintained.

Mountain-hiking to Dr. Gessner, as a true biblical creationist, was a joy and an opportunity to appreciate God’s creative glory in nature.

Of special importance to creation geologists, such as William Hoesch (who is quoted below), Dr. Gessner also wrote on fossils (see article quoted below), refusing to accept the faddish contra-biblical fossil theory of his generation:

The history of thinking about fossils is a study in worldviews. Conrad Gesner of Zurich (1516-1565) is considered by some the greatest naturalist of his century. His book, On Fossil Objects, in many ways reflects his Protestant upbringing. The fact that he lost his father in armed combat between Catholics and Protestants in 1531 reminds us that this was a time when it was costly to believe. Gesner’s close friend growing up was none other than Heinrich Bullinger, one of the most influential Christian figures of his century. Gesner’s interest in science led him to universities at a time when Renaissance humanism was the dominant worldview. In his work on fossils, his Protestant upbringing shines through in some interesting ways.

First, Gesner placed great emphasis on firsthand observation which can be seen in his detailed woodcut illustrations of fossils. In this, he broke with the Renaissance tradition of science, placing the opinions of the “Ancients” (Aristotle, etc.) above that of observation. Gesner reversed this. At the time, it was not at all obvious that marine-looking fossils found in stone far from the sea were the remains of once living organisms. Neoplatonism held that the funny fossil shapes were controlled by mysterious astral influences, and Aristotelianism attributed marine-looking fossils to the transport of “seeds” of ocean-dwelling organisms that got carried inland and grew in place after lodging in the cracks. Gesner made no effort to challenge these teachings, but in comparing side-by-side quality woodcut illustrations of living marine organisms with marine-looking fossils, he helped to move thinking toward an organic interpretation of fossils. Firsthand observation is an essential step in “taking dominion over nature” that is mandated in Scripture, and Gesner seemed to manifest this.

Second, Gesner took a peculiar delight in the study of nature. When he considered the minerals and gems which were at that time considered in the category of “fossils,” he was transfixed by the thought that these were earthly reminders of the jeweled City of Jerusalem. An accomplished physician, he delighted in hiking the Swiss Alps where he sought to catalog botanicals for their potential medicinal use. It was considered odd at this time to “enjoy” nature, but Gesner is hailed by some today as the father of recreational hiking! Despite nature’s fallen condition, he was able to “see” the invisible things of God and His attributes (Romans 1:20). The level of delight Gesner took in nature cannot be credited to his Neoplatonic or Aristotelian training. It is as if he saw all of nature as a divine revelation.

The considered wisdom of “the Ancients,” that fossils grew in place, was ultimately an article of pagan philosophy. Gesner, and others who followed, helped to change the thinking process. Early church fathers like Tertullian actually had it right; they understood an organic origin for fossils. For them, to get the remains of marine creatures high on the hills required an unusual agency—it obviously took a global Flood! Although long forgotten, and requiring thinking big about earth history, this teaching of a global Flood would return in the seventeenth century and play a key role in returning science to a solid foundation. 

[Quoting William Hoesch, “Fossil Political Correctness in the Sixteenth Century,” Acts & Facts / Back to Genesis (January 2007).]


Don’t expect a lot of pop-culture applause for Dr. Gessner, though —  because he glorified God in his Protestant Reformation-informed scholarship.  Thus, unlike many secular scientists who accomplished much less, Gessner’s work is mostly ignored.  However, God has not ignored Dr. Gessner’s reverent and careful creation research and scholarship  —  because God gives credit where credit is due (Romans 13:7), regardless of whether the truth is popular!  Meanwhile, God’s glory as the Creator is “clearly seen” everywhere.

<> JJSJ    profjjsj@aol.com


How a Snake Can Help Us to Understand the Promise of John 3:16


How a Snake Can Help Us to Understand the Promise of John 3:16

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

And Moses made a serpent of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of copper, he lived.   (Numbers 21:9)

Consider the unusual role that serpents have in God’s creation. The first serpent specifically mentioned in the Bible is the one that Satan used, as his mask, for talking with Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden.  Prior to the Garden of Eden event serpents could walk on legs, but afterwards – as part of the curse God imposed as consequences for that terrible event – serpents were limited to crawling on their bellies (Genesis 3).

Did serpents, and other animals, routinely talk to humans in the Garden of Eden, before the Fall? Does the fact that Balaam’s donkey was enabled to talk to Balaam, later in history (after the Jews exited Egypt under Moses’s leadership), an indication that animals were originally able to converse with humans, but now are not?  Scripture does not explicitly tell us the answer, one way or the other.  Meanwhile, serpents – what we call snakes cannot now walk on legs, and they are a continuing reminder of what happened in the Garden of Eden (and the seriousness of sin), thousands of years ago.

Apart from that unusual role that one serpent once had, in the Garden of Eden, we see that snakes are reptiles that God created, cold-blooded (“ectothermic”) predators, capable of great subtlety and viciousness.

Earth has many kinds of snakes today, from huge snakes, like pythons of the Amazon River rainforest, to small “harmless” Rough-Earth Snakes that live mostly underground (unless heavy rains flush them out of the topsoil).

The King Cobra (a/k/a “hamadryad” snakes) are the world’s longest venomous snake, meaning that this snake puts out a poisonous toxin (which is squired form openings in its fangs) when it bites a victim.  Humans easily die of cobra bites, unless a counteracting anti-venom remedy is immediately applied.  As the victim succumbs to the venom’s destructiveness the snake swallows the victims, if the victim is small enough for the cobra to swallow it. The venom is mostly a mix of painful neurotoxins that destroy the central nervous system, ruining vision, balance, alertness, and the brain’s control of the ability to breathe – quite a picture of how sin ruins, cripples, incapacitates, and can ultimately destroy the life of a human, if a sufficient remedy to the venomous snakebite is not timely applied.

For human sin, however, there is only one efficacious remedy, the substitutionary death of the Lord  Jesus Christ, Who died on the cross for our sins (i.e., receiving punishment as our substitute  —  see Romans 5:8) – if, as, and when a human accepts this wonderful fact he (or she) receives God’s saving grace, the antidote for sin’s consequences.

The Bible’s first prophecy of Jesus, as the sin-defeating Messiah, was given in Genesis 3:15, when God was addressing the serpent in Eden:

“And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; he [i.e., Woman’s seed = Jesus] shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This was fulfilled by Christ when He was crucified, because the Lord Jesus’s substitutionary death on the cross actually defeated the power of both sin and death, as is explained by Paul in 1st Corinthians chapter 15.

Interestingly, the comparison that Jesus Himself used, when explaining eternal life to Nicodemus, referred back to an incident involving snakes: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world [literally “like this God loved the world”, i.e., like what occurred in the wilderness with the snakebites and the miraculous remedy that God provided, that involved a copper snake on a pole, combined with snake-bit Israelites believing God’s promise of a cure if they looked at the pole], that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:14-16) .  That strange event, which Jesus referred to, is reported in Numbers 21:4-9, which says:

And they [i.e., the Israelites] journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.  

And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.

Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord, and against thee; pray unto the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.

And Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

And Moses made a serpent of copper, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of copper, he lived.

In other words, if we think of Jesus Christ dying on the cross (crucified for our sins) as our substitute, as we believe God’s promise (in John 3:16) that we will be graciously cured of our sin’s consequences as a miraculous gift He generously gives us due to Christ being our Savior   –   we too receive God-given life, but not just receiving an extension of our earthly life (cured of earthly snakebites), but rather receiving the forever-permanent gift of eternal life (forgiven all our sins!).

So, when you think of the wonderful promise of John 3:16, remember that John 3:16 refers back to John 3:14-15, which then looks back to the snake incident reported in Numbers 21:4-9.  So how is the Lord Jesus Christ, when He was on the cross, comparable to the copper snake-on-a-pole that Moses erected (Numbers 21:4-9), as part of God’s solution to the snakebite crisis in the wilderness?   Christ accepted the curse and punishment of our sin, and was nailed to a pole-like cross, as He exchanged our sin for His own righteousness:

For He [God the Father] hath made Him [Christ Jesus] to be sin for us [human sinners], Who knew no sin [i.e., Christ Himself was personally sinless in His humanity]; that we [human sinners] might be made the righteousness of God in Him [i.e., in Christ]. (2nd Corinthians 5:21)

So snakes should remind us of God’s gracious redemption in Christ, to save us humans from the consequences of our sin, and we should be mindful that God’s first promised this redemption in Genesis 3:15, and it was later explained by the Savior Himself, in John 3:14-15 (which alludes to Numbers 21:4-9).





How Insects and Spiders Escape Freezing to Death in Winter, Showing How Providential Bioengineering Equips Bugs for Phenological Success

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.   (Genesis 8:22)

During torrid July days you might miss winter weather.(1) However, in higher latitudes (such as those in the cold north of Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, etc.), it’s winter weather that needs mitigation. Brrrrr!  

Winter-wonderland bugs (i.e., arctic insects and arachnids) need to be equipped with bioengineering adaptabilities, programmed to select coping responses to physiological-sensor-tracked climate condition changes, because they are cold-blooded, so failure to self-adjust to freezing weather means freezing to death!

So how can insects and arachnids withstand frigid forces of frost and freezing?(2)

With careful bioengineering (and environmental tracking software programming), God has providentially prepared multi-legged creepy critters to use different solutions to the same problem.


Frozen Spider   [photo credit:  Stanislav Snall ]

Why is winter weather such a challenge, to “bugs” (cold-blooded insects and arachnids) whom God has directed to “be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth”?

Many climatic features of arctic regions limit the ways in which insects [and arachnids] can live. …  All [arctic] species experience severe cold in winter … [and] the presence of permafrost everywhere except in deep lakes and in the substrates of some running waters means that unfrozen habitats are not available to most species, and even individuals buried in substrates experience prolonged temperatures of about -20OC in the high Arctic [cite omitted].  Nevertheless, constant darkness in winter without solar heating or marked diel [i.e., 24-hour] cycles means that temperatures, though severe, are somewhat less variable than in temperate regions.   The winter is very long. Species sealed in ice will not be exposed to the air again for many months, and might require the ability to respire anaerobically as temperatures rise before the ice melts.

Summer is short and cool … [so the] mean frost-free season is very short, only 9 days [in the high Arctic], so that cold-hardiness is required even during the warmest summer period. This short season starts slowly as habitats warm up.  Wet habitats and low-lying areas where snow has accumulated through drifting in winter warm up especially slowly.   Many potential resources of food are in short supply in arctic regions [cite omitted], which makes insect [and arachnid] development during the short summer season even more difficult.

Constraints on development imposed by limited resources for food, heat, [sunlight] and time are offset by the fact that the temperature of habitats, especially at the ground surface and in shallow waters where most insects [and arachnids] live, can be greatly increased by solar heat. Therefore, the extent of summer cloud cover is very important.  Cloud cover varies especially according to proximity to the sea, both on a local scale and according to the size of regional land masses, because the sea contributes moisture to the air when it is ice-free in summer.

Arctic regions are very dry, and often have been referred to as polar desert. Only a few centimetres of rain fall each year in the high Arctic … [so such] dryness may hinder insect development, and interacts with the effects of temperature.(3)

Five problem-solving strategies, for how bugs (i.e., various insects and arachnids, including spiders) to avoid being frozen to death, follow.

 Options # 1  &  # 2: 


[ chart credit: Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation ]

Live Where It Never Freezes, or Migrate to Avoid Freezing

The easiest survive-the-cold strategy is to live, as jungle bugs do, where it never gets cold enough to freeze. Another avoidance strategy is seasonal migration, illustrated by Monarch Butterflies, which migrate southward for overwintering, then return when warmer spring weather returns.(4)

It should be noticed, however, that Monarch butterflies use a multi-generational approach to their complete migratory cycle —  one generation flies south (e.g., form Canada or America to Mexico), yet it takes more than one generation to complete the reverse migration back north, before the autumn winds are used for flying south again:

Butterflies look so delicate as they flitter from flower to flower. And yet, they are capable of migrating incredibly long distances. The monarch, for example, migrates between Canada and Mexico, covering distances of up to 4,800 kilometers, riding a combination of columns of rising air, called thermals, and air currents to travel around 80 to 160 kilometers per day. No single monarch makes this entire journey, though. The round trip is done by a succession of as many as five generations of butterflies.(5)

However, there is a resilient butterfly, whom God has painted with similar wing colors (yet a different pattern of those orange, black, and white colors), the Painted Lady.  This hardy-yet-dainty butterfly truly exhibits marathon stamina.

PaintedLadyButterfly-migration.MelindaFrydenlund[Image credit: Melinda Frydenlund]

Painted ladies are found throughout much of the world, except for South America and Australia. They’ve been seen as far north as Svalbard, Norway, and nearly as far south as Antarctica.   The butterflies are known to migrate, particularly between Europe and Africa, but their route has been largely unknown. Scientists had tracked the butterflies to northern Africa (the region known as the Maghreb), but there have been hints that they may fly across the Sahara. Two new studies back up this claim.(5)


[ PAINTED LADY (Vanessa cardui) on Purple Coneflower / Wikipedia image ]

Migrating from Norway, south to Africa? Now that is marathon migration!

Option # 3: 


[ Subterranean Termites   [photo credit: Pestkilled.com ]

Hibernation-like Freeze Avoidance

Some non-migratory social insects, including ants and termites, survive winter by hunkering down (called “diapause”, similar to hibernation) in underground colonies located below the frost line. There they stay warm, feeding on food they stored earlier.(6)  Diapause is also useful for slowing down metabolic processes till the time of year when full-blown metabolism is optimized due to food availability in a given habitat.  (No need to be voraciously hungry when the local food supplies are slim pickin’s!)

In fact, building a winter cocoon for temperature insulation, is functionally equivalent to modifying a micro-habitat, to avoid outside freezing temperatures, as is done by some chironomid midges (a/k/a “lake flies”).(3) Winter cocoons shelter the indwelling larvae from injury from icy weather conditions.

Some alpine beetles are known to use diapause (a hibernation-like semi-dormant state of slowed-down metabolism), to slow down the “normal” energy-demanding activities of growth and development, during winter.  Ordinary oxidative metabolism is suppressed, being temporarily replaced by anaerobic metabolism processes, facilitating cryoprotectant (i.e., protection-against-cold) systems within the beetles, regulating their development to avoid vulnerability to continued super-cold conditions.(3)

Of course, there are two phenological scenarios for synching life-cycle developments with the 4 seasons: (1) bugs that live at least a full year before reproducing the next generation; and (2) bugs that live less than a full year before reproducing.(3) The former category require bioengineering design to enable them to survive all of their habitat’s seasons, but the latter category can be phenologically fitted to the 4 seasons by life stages, so that the life stages are synched to survive the weather of that stage’s time of year.  This option is illustrated by the Monarch Butterfly’s multi-generation migration.

Options # 4  &  # 5:  

Carabid-GroundBeetle.MarkEising-photoCarabid Ground Beetle  /  photo credit:  Mark Eising

Super-cooling “Antifreeze” and/or Freeze Tolerance

Another amazing option for many insects and spiders, for surviving freezing weather, is safeguarding hemolymph [i.e., bug “blood”] with “antifreeze” biochemicals. (Obviously, this requires bug sensors detecting temperatures.)

God designed and built some bugs with physiologies that lower the hemolymph’s freezing point, using thermal hysteresis proteins (i.e., “antifreeze” proteins), in conjunction with sugar polymers (such as xylomannan) and/or glycerol.(7),(8)

Insects survive low temperatures either by keeping their body fluids liquid below their ordinary freezing point (freeze avoidance), or by surviving the formation of ice in their tissues (freeze tolerance)….   For species inhabiting in temperate and colder climates, the ability to supercool is undoubtedly the most important component of the overwintering strategy. At temperatures below 0OC, most insect species remain unfrozen because they supercool.  Cold-hardiness can be measured by indices such as supercooling points (SCP), the temperature at which spontaneous freezing occurs [cite omitted].    Freeze-avoiding insects keep their body fluids liquid by removing ice nucleators that initiate ice formation, synthesizing antifreeze proteins to reduce the nucleation potential of seed crystals, and accumulating sugars and polyols, such as glycerol or trehalose, which also lower the crystallization temperature (defined as its super-cooling point) and stabilize membranes at low temperatures [cite omitted].(9)

Most bugs that survive freezing temperatures are actually using biochemical “antifreeze” to supercool their hemolymph, but some bugs actually tolerate some amount of freezing.(7),(8),(9),(10)

Arthropods that live in sub-zero temperatures for at least part of the year survive by one of two physiological and biochemical responses.   At least for insects, one way is tolerance of ice crystal formation in their bodies (freeze tolerance), and the other is avoidance of ice crystal formation (freeze avoidance).   Ice crystal formation is avoided by super-cooling, which depresses the freezing point. … [facilitated by] accumulation of polyol compounds in the hemolymph (thus increasing the osmotic pressure), dehydration (also increasing osmotic pressure), synthesis of thermal-hysteresis protein, or evacuation or masking of ice-nucleation factors in the gut.(8)

Freeze-tolerant insects, such as arctic beetles, appear to employ physiologies that manipulate intracellular ice-nucleating agents (and apply protein-stabilizing cryoprotectant substances), to limit hemolymph ice crystal formation to extracellular compartments, preventing intracellular crystallization.(7),(10)

Some Bugs are “Fitted to Fill” Arctic Habitats that Seasonally Freeze

Now how would beetles accidently “evolve” these magnificent adaptabilities, phenologically indexed to Earth’s annual temperature and photoperiodicity rhythms?  With universal entropy fighting against their chances of survival, as well as every detail of their biochemistry, they need much more than “luck”!(11)

Hit-or-miss mutations, accidently “emerging” in insect (or spider) genomes, cannot biochemically code bio-informational “software” and physiological “hardware” of bug bodies, to so successfully fill super-cold habitats!

These bugs need life-saving temperature detectors to trigger built-in selective logic, that switches (on or off) physiological responses, that are focally targeted to avoid allowing the bugs to freeze to death!  Due to the cold logic of biochemistry, these super-cool critters can’t be lucky products of evolutionary “genes-in-magic”.

Rather, these super-cool bugs showcase God’s providential “programmed-to-fill” bioengineering!


(1)Contentment, as seasons and weather change, can be a challenge (Philippians 4:11). After the Flood, God promised that Earth would experience predictable seasonal weather cycles, including recurring cold weather (Genesis 8:22).

(2)Some say that winter frost or icy freezes kill off the bugs—yet the bugs always return in spring, so obviously they are surviving winter somehow!

(3)H. V. Danks, Olga Kukal, & R. A. Ring, “Insect Cold-Hardiness: Insights from the Arctic”, Arctic, 47(4):391-404 (December 1994), quotation from page 392.

(4)Moody Science Institute, “Animal Kingdom: Great Are Thy Works” (The Wonders of Creation DVD series, vol. 2, 1993).

(5) Sarah Zielinski, “Painted Lady Butterflies’ Migration May Take Them Across the Sahara”, Science News, October 12th, 2016 ( https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/painted-lady-butterflies%E2%80%99-migration-may-take-them-across-sahara ). See also Gerard Talavera & Roger Vila, “Discovery of Mass Migration and Breeding of the Painted Lady Butterfly Vanessa cardui in the Sub-sahara:  the Europe—Africa Migration Revisited”, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 20(2):274-285 (February 2017), posted at  https://doi.org/10.1111/bij.12873 (“The distribution range of V. cardui is much wider than that of the monarch. It is a virtually cosmopolitan species that can be found everywhere except most of South America and Australia. Thus, Vanessa cardui has one of the largest distributional ranges among terrestrial animals that undertake large-scale migratory movements [cite omitted]. Occasional records exist for extremely cold localities, as for example, near the Arctic polar circle in Svalbard, Norway [cited omitted] and close to the Antarctic … [cite omitted].”).

(6)Proverbs 30:25 (“ants … prepare their food in the summer”). See also Brian J. Cabrera & Shripat T. Kamble, “Effects of Decreasing Thermophotoperiod on the Eastern Subterranean Termite (Isoptera: Rhinotermitidae)”, Environmental Entomology, 30(2):166-171 (2001); https://doi.org/10.1603/0046-225X-30.2.166 (“[S]uccessfully overwintering R. flavipes [termite] colonies retreat to soil depths where freezing temperatures are not encountered.”)

(7)Lauritz Sømme, Invertebrates in Hot and Cold Arid Environments (Springer, 1995), 194-213. Regarding xylomannan’s role, in Alaska’s flat bark beetle, see Ned Rozell “Alaska Beetle Survive ‘Unearthly’ Temperatures”, Geophysical Institute, article # 2104 (University of Alaska Fairbanks, March 1, 2012).

(8)Jonathan Murphy, Tatiana Rossolimo, & Sina Ada, “Cold-hardiness in the Wolf Spider Pardosa groenlandica (Thorell) with Respect to Thermal Limits and Dehydration”, Journal of Arachnology, 36:213-215 (2008), omitting inline cites.

(9)Angela Ploomi, Irja Kivimägi, Eha Kruus, Ivar Sibul, Katrin Jõgar, Külli Hiiesaar, & Luule Metspalu, “Seasonal Cold Adaptation Dynamics of Some Carabid Beetle Species: Carabus granulatus, Pterostichus oblongopunctatus, and Platynus assimilis”, Forestry Studies [Metsanduslikud Uurimused], 57: 90-96 (2012), quotation from page 90.  [The lead co-author, Angela Ploomi, of Estonian University of Life Sciences (in Tartu), is reachable at angela.ploomi@emu.ee ]

(10)Karl Erik Zachariassen & Harold T. Hammel, Nucleating Agents in the Haemolymph of Insects Tolerant to Freezing, Nature, 262:285-287 (July 22, 1976).

(11)James J. S. Johnson, “Infinite Time Won’t Rescue Evolution”, Acts & Facts, 47(6):21 (June 2018), posted at http://www.icr.org/article/infinite-time-wont-rescue-evolution .                                                     

><> JJSJ     profjjsj@aol.com

[No Scandinavian or other Arctic-region insects or bugs were harmed during this study.]


How did Life Originate? Why am I Alive?


 How did Life Originate?  Why am I alive?

Dr. James J. S. Johnson


Life, as we know it (human, or horse, or hadrosaur) can only come from preexisting life.  Life  —  whether human, animal, or anything else  —  is so complicated (just ask a few hemoglobin, nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA, and RNA molecules!),   it cannot “invent itself” by random accidents, especially within a physical universe that is governed by the inescapable, ubiquitous law of entropy (a/k/a the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics).

In other words, due to universal entropy, luck plus infinite time never arrive at any form of “life”  —  see “Infinite Time Won’t Rescue Evolution:  Biochemical Entropy Ink Won’t Stop Disintegrating!”,  posted at  http://www.icr.org/article/infinite-time-wont-rescue-evolution/ .


Nothing or no one less than God Himself could invent life, much less all of the forms of life that we see on planet Earth.  Genesis5.1-2-FamilyHistory-slide

Thankfully, God has always existed, and He is the ultimate and infinite LIFE.  So it is not hard for Him to create finite creatures, like us, who have life.  Wow!  Yet, for that life to be secured for an ever-blessed eternity, a choice to believe in Jesus as Savior must be timely made.  That is the precious promise (and warning) God gave us in John 3:16.John1.10-12-FamilyHistory-slide

What a good destiny: created and saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, for now and forever!

[Under the evangelistic preaching of Dr. Gilbert Williams,  at a small Methodist church’s weekend revival meeting,   in rural Maryland during November AD1967,  as a boy,  I happily believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, confirming my believing acceptance of God’s amazingly generous gift of redemption and forgiveness, as John 3:16 promises]