For most prey, the game is over once they have been swallowed. But Bombardier beetles can escape from a toad’s stomach nearly two hours after being eaten, a study found.

When threatened, the beetles shoot a hot chemical spray from their rear end. When swallowed, they fire their defenses, setting off a small explosion inside the toad, causing the toad to vomit.

Despite having entered the toads’ digestive system, every evicted beetle survived. The authors say it is not clear whether the beetles have evolved a resistance to a toad’s digestive fluids or their poison keeps the beetles from harm.

Starfish light the way

In a surprising finding, some deep starfish make their own light. And they can look at you too, with a teeny eye on the tip of each bendy arm. Scientists, who didn’t even know whether deep sea starfish had eyes, found that some starfish are more biologically complex than previously thought. Anders Garm, a marine biologist at the University of Copenhagen, said, “There are animals there making their own lanterns and finding their way.”

Skates that walk?

About 375 million years ago, a pioneering fish crawled out of a prehistoric ocean and kick-started the evolution of salamanders, lizards, you, me and all other land vertebrates.

But a report in the journal Cell suggests the template for walking originated in ancient fish millions of years before the first vertebrate ever ambled on land. The skate, a fish related to sharks and rays, not only displays walking behavior on the seafloor, but uses neurons and genes that are nearly identical to the ones vertebrates use to walk on land, said Jeremy Dasen, an associate professor at the NYU School of Medicine’s Neuroscience Institute. You can trace the heritage of little skates and land vertebrates back to a common ancestor that lived about 420 million years ago.

News services