Saturday April 12, 2014

As Strong as a ... Beetle?

Listen 8:30
Horned Passalus beetle

Horned Passalus beetle in the lifting strength testing apparatus.

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Beetles can triple their strength and lift 300 times their own weight when stressed.

Strength in insects is something that is not often considered, let alone studied. But watching two horned passalus beetles in conflict, especially one lifting the other to turn it over, inspired such research. Dr. Andy Davis, a Canadian working as a Research Scientist in the School of Ecology at the University of Georgia in Athens, placed beetles in a force gauge that measured upward push. The result was that the 2-gram beetle could lift 100 times its own weight. Then, beetles were tested under conditions of stress, to simulate conflict with another beetle. In this experiment, the beetle demonstrated an ability to lift 300 times its own weight, a total of 600 grams, or the equivalent of a 200-pound man lifting six elephants. This response in the beetle is part of what is referred to as the 'fight or flight' response, known in many animals.

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