Alex Wild

ScienceShot: World's Strongest Insect

The insect world is famous for its Olympian power-lifters, but the horned dung beetle (Onthophagus Taurus) takes the gold. A mere 10 millimeters long, the beetle can pull up to 1141 times its own body weight-the equivalent of an average man lifting two fully-loaded 18-wheeler trucks. That makes it a third stronger than the strongest known insect (the rhinoceros beetle), hundreds of times stronger than ants, and just a shade weaker than the world's strongest animal, a tiny yet tenacious mite known as Archegozetes longisetosus. In a study published online tomorrow in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers report measuring the Herculean feat by gluing a cotton thread to the beetles' hard wing-cases, stringing the thread across a pulley, and tying it to a miniature bucket, to which they added drops of water. The scientists believe the beetle evolved such brawn because brute strength is the deciding factor in males' competition over females, which is waged as head-to-head pushing matches in dung tunnels.