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A new breed of bionic air and ground forces — off-road tarantulas, scorpion tanks, butterfly copters, beetle jets, and more — rolls, crawls, and flies across the battlefield in a cyborg army designed and built by artist Dean Christ.

At least we think that’s who he is.

“I can only reveal that my name is Dean Christ and I’m currently based in Sydney, Australia, after living in Japan for several years,” he says. “That’s all you really need to know.”

OK. So where did the cryptic creator come up with his nature-hacked troop concept? Not in the pages of science fiction, but by reading a blog post a year ago about a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-funded study aiming to remotely control moth flight using integrated electronics. A couple months later, he stumbled across museum-grade scorpion and spider specimens at a local weekend market.

“It clicked,” he says. “I like finding inspiration in concepts or ideas that at first seem absurdist or unbelievable but are grounded in some sort of reality. I guess the saying ‘fact is stranger than fiction’ sums it up.”

Next, he purchased his own specimens from suppliers around the world and added scale-model military parts to suit each one. Scorpions, with their armored shells, seemed to fit a tank design; butterflies are light and hover like helicopters; beetles have sleek, streamlined bodies with hidden wings — the perfect fighter jets.

To date, the cyborg army consists of 30 creatures wielding an arsenal of technologies like stealth, smart bombs, rockets, and Stinger missiles. Christ hopes to exhibit in the coming year.

The bug battalion represents what Christ fears could become real if projects like DARPA’s are taken to the extreme. To him, the cyborgs could be the next step in biological warfare, and the next arms race may involve pincers and antennae along with grenades and bombs.

Biomechanical Bug Army: cyborganimals.com

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