This insect’s rugged exoskeleton is so tough that the beetle can survive getting run over by cars, and many would-be predators don’t stand a chance of cracking one open. Phloeodes diabolicus is basically nature’s jawbreaker.
The diabolical ironclad beetle (Phloeodes diabolicus) lives under the bark of oak and other trees in the western United States, feasting on fungi growing there. In terrestrial habitats, these beetles often hide under rocks or squeeze within bark for shelter, not only to survive hot and arid environments, but also to avoid crushing or pecking predation. Like other beetles, it plays dead when in danger. But though this tiny bug isn’t much bigger than a grain of rice, it can withstand crushing forces equivalent to 39,000 times its body weight, the researchers discovered. That’s about four times more than the strongest humans exert when squeezing the beetle between the thumb and forefinger. Using an imaging technique called micro-computed tomography, Rivera and colleagues went on to observe some striking features at interfaces in the exoskeleton