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Beetle named world's strongest insect can pull equivalent of six full double decker buses!


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Beetle named world's strongest insect can pull equivalent of six full double decker buses



By David Derbyshire

Last updated at 10:00 PM on 24th March 2010



It may be less than half an inch long and have questionable personal hygiene, but a species of dung beetle has won the title of world's strongest insect.

In tests, male horned dung beetles were able to pull 1,141 times their own body weight - the equivalent of a person dragging six fully-laden double decker buses.

By comparison, a leafcutter ant can lift a mere 50 times its own body weight.


Locked in battle: Male dung beetles prove their supremacy in front of a female by pushing any competing males out of the tunnel she has dug to reproduce in






  • Dung beetles are found on every continent - apart from Antarctica
  • They have a life span of three years and range in size from less than 1mm to 6cm
  • Ancient Egyptians revered the beetle (also known as the scarab) and believed that a giant version of the insect kept the earth revolving
  • They are usually solitary - except for the period they spend with a partner before mating
  • Female dung beetles are the best mothers in the insect world and stay with their offspring for two months
  • Scientists have found up to 16,000 beetles in one 1.5kg heap of elephant dung



The British researchers behind the discovery say the beetle evolved its super strength as a mating strategy, using its muscles to settle fierce battles with rivals.

The species - Onthophagus taurus - originated in the Mediterranean, but has been exported around the world. In Australia, for example, they were introduced to help clear up the alarming number of cow pats being ignored by local beetles.


Dr Rob Knell, one of the researchers from Queen Mary, University of London, said: 'Insects are well known for being able to perform amazing feats of strength, and it's all on account of their curious sex lives.

'Female beetles of this species dig tunnels under a dung pat, where males mate with them. 'If a male enters a tunnel that is already occupied by a rival, they fight by locking horns and try to push each other out.'

Dr Knell tested the strength of the insects by sticking threads to their backs with superglue and placing them in artificial tunnels.

He attached the end of the thread to a pot, hung it off a pulley and slowly dripped water into the pot until the beetle could withstand the weight no longer, he reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.






Dr Knell said he was 'pretty confident' that the dung beetle was the world's strongest insect, adding: 'If anyone knows of one that is stronger, I'd like to hear from them.

'There is a mite that is stronger, but it isn't an insect.' But macho men, take note - the horned dung beetle's brute strength does not help it hang on to its partner after mating.

It lives side by side with smaller, hornless males, who avoid battling their rivals by sneaking into the tunnels to mate when the horned males are not around.

Although they have fewer chances to mate, they produce higherquality sperm than their more muscular counterparts - meaning each attempt is more likely to be successful.

The researchers also found the mighty insects have to pay just as much attention to diet as human athletes. Even the strongest beetles were reduced to weaklings when put on a poor diet for a few days.



Indian born British strongman Manjit Singh, 59, broke a world record last year by pulling one double-decker bus about 20 yards - a dung beetle can move the equivalent of six full buses, or 1,141 times its bodyweight


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1260192/Dung-beetle-named-worlds-strongest-insect.html#ixzz0j8PLWS90

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