March 23, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Beetle Pulls 1,141 Times Its Weight

Ever watch those contest shows for the World’s Strongest Man?  Compared to dung beetles, they’re wimps.  Scientists at Queen Mary, University of London found that the strongest beetle tested could pull an astonishing 1,141 times its own weight – “the equivalent of a 70kg person lifting 80 tonnes (the same as six full double-decker buses),” reported PhysOrg.
    The strength of an individual beetle was found to be a function of diet and exercise, just as with humans: “Even the strongest beetles were reduced to feeble weaklings when put on a poor diet for a few days.”  From there, the article descended into a lurid story of how this super strength is all due to sexual games.

The stuff at the end of the article about beetles battling for sex in tunnels of dung should be understood in context.  For one thing, it is not their dung.  Their environment, to them, is no worse than gardeners handling fertilizer or plants imbibing our exhaled carbon dioxide.  The stuff about sex games is typical evolutionary personification.  It commits the fallacy making dumb insects capable of intrigue and selfish strategies.  None of it explains their amazing feats of strength and complex organs.  Animals and plants need to be understood on their own terms.  We do not disparage human strong men by comparing them to beetles.  We do not expect them to lift six full double-decker buses.  Given their environment and genes, their feats are impressive and honorable in a human context.  Be the best you can be with what you were given.

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