Sunday, December 26, 2010

Super bug! World’s strongest insect discovered


After months of demanding tests, a species of horned dung beetle takes the title for world's strongest insect.

The beetle, called Onthophagus taurus, was found to be able to pull an enormous 1,141 times its own body weight, which is the equivalent of a 150-pound (70-kilogram) person lifting six full double-decker buses. While the study researcher knows of a mite that can take on a hair more, that organism is an arachnid, not an insect.

The finding, published in the current subject of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, does more than elevate the beetle's status, as it lends insight to questions of evolutionary biology.

The beetles aren't the dung-ball-carrying variety, and instead the females bury most of the fecal material from, say, cow droppings.

The females build little tunnels, where they lay their eggs in the dung. It's within this tunnel that mating, and the pre-mating fightsbetween waiting males, takes place. But not all males are equipped for battle. Some sport horns while others are hornless. The no-horn beetles instead wait at the tunnel's entrance, sometimes hiding out in self-built side tunnels, and sneak in to mate before they're caught by a horned male.

The horned males, on the other hand, duke it out head-to-head.

"Their horns kind of meet on the shoulders, and they push each other backward and forward, and the guy being pushed will brace when pushed in the tunnel," Rob Knell from Queen Mary, University of London told LiveScience.