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Distributed search problems are ubiquitous in Artificial Life (ALife). Many distributed search problems require identifying a rare and previously unseen event and producing a rapid response. This challenge amounts to finding and removing an unknown needle in a very large haystack. Traditional computational search models are unlikely to find, nonetheless, appropriately respond to, novel events, particularly given data distributed across multiple platforms in a variety of formats and sources with variable and unknown reliability. Biological systems have evolved solutions to distributed search and response under uncertainty. Immune systems and ant colonies efficiently scale up massively parallel search with automated response in highly dynamic environments, and both do so using distributed coordination without centralized control. These properties are relevant to ALife, where distributed, autonomous, robust and adaptive control is needed to design robot swarms, mobile computing networks, computer security systems and other distributed intelligent systems. They are also relevant for searching, tracking the spread of ideas, and understanding the impact of innovations in online social networks. We review design principles for Scalable Robust, Adaptive, Decentralized search with Automated Response (Scalable RADAR) in biology. We discuss how biological RADAR scales up efficiently, and then discuss in detail how modular search in the immune system can be mimicked or built upon in ALife. Such search mechanisms are particularly useful when components have limited capacity to communicate and when physical distance makes communication more costly.