This "Diabolical Ironclad Beetle" Does Well Under Pressure — Literally

Scientists discover a hardy beetle that has an almost indestructible exoskeleton

Just about everyone's accidentally or intentionally stepped on an insect — crushing it to bits.


That's not the case with this hardcore Diabolical Ironclad Beetle. The little creature can even get run over by a car and it'll keep goin'. Formally known as Phloeodes diabolicus, this tough insect is so durable that other animals don't even want to mess with it.


Apparently, the beetle's exoskeleton requires a drill to penetrate, according to scientists at Purdue University and the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

The curious scientists found out that the beetle can survive being crushed by 39,000 times the weight of its own body, which is equivalent to a human being crushed by something weighing over 3,500 tons.

The key to this outstanding exoskeletal strength lies in how it stretches instead of shattering when a large weight is applied.


The scientists figured out that the beetle's elytra — which would normally be wings — have fused together to provide a shield made from layers of a fibrous material called chitin.


Under extreme pressure, this layer doesn't snap and slowly fractures instead.

A cross-section of the medial suture, where two halves of the diabolical ironclad beetle's elytra meet.
"The ironclad is a terrestrial beetle, so it's not lightweight and fast but built more like a little tank," said lead author David Kisailus. "That's its adaptation: It can't fly away, so it just stays put and lets its specially designed armor take the abuse until the predator gives up."

So, why are these scientists so interested in this tank-like insect?


They're hoping that by fully understanding this beetle's incredible defenses it'll lead to the creation of tougher construction materials for use in aircraft, space probes, and other things the government can use to be indestructible, so to speak.


By Matthew Sterner.

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