• Navya Jagadish

The Ironclad Beetle

For an animal so small, ironclad beetles have an exoskeleton that is so hard and tough that the beetle is able to survive getting run over from a car. Through careful analysis of microscope images and computer simulations of the beetle’s outer cover, it has been revealed that the tightly wound and impact absorbing structures connect pieces of the beetle’s exoskeleton to help it survive major crushing forces (1). These findings could apply to many different situations such as potentially helping scientists make stronger designs for body armor, bridges and buildings.


The ironclad beetle is found in desert regions in Western North America. Studies have found that this beetle could withstand around 39,000 times its own body weight (1). Two key microscopic features help these beetles to maintain their strength. The first being the connections between the top half and bottom half of the exoskeleton. The ridges along the edges of the top and bottom join together. The second key feature is a rigid joint that is the length of the beetle’s back and connects the left and right side of the beetle together. These blades are highly resistant to any kind of damage.


When the beetle gets crushed, tiny cracks form in the protein glue between the layers of each blade, and these small fractures allow the blades to take impacts without completely breaking. The hard exterior of the beetle also poses problems on insect collectors as they are so durable that they actually bend the steel pins that insect collectors use to mount the insects to display them. These ironclad beetles are very important as they can help potentially design stronger and sturdier engineering projects.


References

Temming, Maria. “The Diabolical Ironclad Beetle Can Survive Getting Run over by a Car. Here's How.” Science News, 21 Oct. 2020, www.sciencenews.org/article/diabolical-ironclad-beetle-exoskeleton-armor-impossible-squish.

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