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Home > Animal Kingdom > Creepy Crawlies > Strongest Creature

Strongest Creature: Horned Dung Beetle
Onthophagus taurus

New World Record
March 23, 2010

Entomologists have recently discovered incredible feats of strength that beat the Rhinoceros beetles' previous record. You're probably thinking the strongest creature on earth is only a bug that fits in the palm of your hand? What about the largest living land mammal? You'd think something as massive as an elephant would be able to carry way more weight than a little insect. Yes, it's true. An elephant can carry a lot more weight than a dung beetle, but the definition of strength we're using here is one of proportional strength. A huge African elephant can only carry up to 25% of its own weight on its back. picture of world's strongest beetleIn a laboratory experiment, Rob Knell from Queen Mary, University of London and Leigh Simmons from the University of Western Australia found that the strongest Onthophagus taurus could pull 1,141 times its own body weight. That's equivalent to a person lifting close to 180,000 pounds (the same as six full double-decker buses).

What are Those Horns For?

The horned dung beetle is aptly named because, well, it has horns on its head. Scientists believe that the beetle has become so strong to fight other male beetles in their quest for the right to mate. Females of the species will dig a tunnel into a pile of dung and males will enter the tunnel looking to mate. If a male encounters another male in the tunnel they will battle each other, each trying to remove the other. The scientists tested the beetle's ability to resist rivals by measuring how much weight was needed to pull a male beetle out of his hole. That's how they know that it would take 1,141 other beetles to pull a determined male dung beetle out of 'love tunnel'. Would that be something like, "A herd of wild horses couldn't drag me away..."

Meet a scientist who studies beetles, right here at Extreme Science.

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