The “uncrushable” beetle.

Scientists have come closer to understanding how a tiny beetle can withstand crushing forces of up to 39,000 times its body weight. 

The Diabolical Ironclad Beetle  (a name that certainly reflects its skills) lives in parts of the US and Mexico. 

The beetle is only around 2cm long but can survive being stepped on by a human being or run over by a car. 

To find out how is able to do this, engineers at the University of California Irvine and Purdue University scanned the beetles in a CT scanner. The results showed that the key to the secret lies in the beetle’s hardened forewings on the outside of its body, which are called elytra. These are like lids that protect another pair of wigs underneath that are used for flights.

Millions of years ago, the ancestor of the Diabolical Ironclad beetle could fly. However it evolved to remain on the ground. It slowly lost its wings and the elytra  became locked together in a line called a suture. 

The scientists found that the beetle’s suture contains a series of jigsaw-shaped joints that connect to different parts of the beetles body and lock together under pressure. This allows any weight pushing down on the beetle to be spread out moved away from more vulnerable areas, such as its neck. 

The "uncrushable" beetle.

Scientists are increasingly looking to animals and nature to solve human problems – this is known as biomimicry. Engineers believe this beetle’s “uncrushable” superpower can help create materials that are both flexible and very tough, which could be useful in the building of future buildings and aeroplanes.

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