Horned Dung Beetle Is World's Strongest Insect

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Photo: Alex Wild.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane — nope, it’s a dung beetle! The world’s strongest bug has been revealed — Onthophagus taurus, a species of horned dung beetle that can pull 1,141 times its own body weight, the equivalent of a 150-pound person pulling six double-decker buses full of people, according to LiveScience.

Scientists studying evolutionary biology tested how well individual male horned beetles would do against each other in pre-mating fights by measuring the amount of force needed to pull them from the underground tunnels in which females lay their eggs.

The beetles were divided into three groups which received either a good diet, a poor diet or no food at all. The scientists then attached a cotton thread to each beetle, allowing the bug to enter a lab-created tunnel and then pulling the thread, causing the beetles to brace their legs.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the well-fed horned male beetles showed enhanced strength compared to their rivals.

But super-strength isn’t everything, even in terms of survival. The horned beetles’ smaller, hornless male counterparts — which often sneak in to mate with the female while the horned males are fighting — developed a curious advantage when fed high quality food: larger testicles.

"The little males don't fight at all, but when they get to mate with a female, they only get to mate with her once," Knell explains to LiveScience.

"She's also mating with one of the guard males [that guards the tunnel]. So the small male has to invest in testes mass so he can inseminate the female with as much sperm as possible."