The World's Strongest Insect Does it All for Love

Photo: Alex Wild Photography

Let's say you weighed around 150 pounds and needed to lift a stack of six double-decker buses. Impossible, right? Well, if you were a dung beetle, such a feat would be no problem. Theses beetles are so strong in fact, they can lift up to 1,141 times its body weight, or roughly equivalent to an average person lifting 80 tons. After studying their behavior, researchers announced today why they think the beetle developed such beefcake qualities, and the reason may not be so surprising: It's to get the ladies.According to a report from Globo, the strength of the dung beetle, Onthophagus taurus, is useful during their often disrupted mating rituals, namely in fending off potential rivals. When it comes to mating time in the beetle world, it seems, a little privacy can be hard to come by. One researcher, Rob Knell of the University of London, explains:

The beetles the females dig tunnels in the manure, where males mate with them. If a male entering a tunnel that is already occupied by a rival, they will fight with their horns, trying to pull one another out.

As it turns out, bulked-up beetles aren't the only ones mating with the females. Knell and his team observed some scrawnier dung beetles who were happy to avoid a conflict by simply waiting for the other male finish mating before making the move on the female themselves.

But why would a female beetle then entertain the company of a male who was so unwilling to fight for her affections? Well, according to Knell, it's because of their "substantially larger testicles."

Rather than developing an uncommon strength to fight for the female, they produce more sperm to increase your chances of fertilizing her eggs and ensure passage of their genes to the next generation.

Research in the sex-lives of insects has yielded some fascinating results: for the dung beetle, either big muscles or big testicles get the girl. It might seem shallow, but I guess it takes a bit more to impress--you know, considering their day job.

More on the Sex-Lives of Animals
Insect Sperm Battle Inside Colony Queens
Female Frogs Inflate to Deter Amorous Males
70-Year-Old Tortoise Hasn't Lost His Mojo

Tags: Animals | Biology | Evolution | Insects

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