Elytra: Ironclad beetles that can even survive a car running over them

A desert beetle native to California can withstand almost 40,000 its body weight. The name of the bug is the “diabolical iron clad beetle.” Even if a car runs over it, its body won’t suffer any damage.

The journal Nature published a study last Wednesday that pinpointed the factor that makes it so durable. Especially the parts like Elytra, the forewings that cover the beetle’s wings, and also its exoskeleton. 

David Kisailus, the principal investigator and a materials science and engineering professor at the University of California, Irvine, said this as a statement “The ironclad is a terrestrial beetle so it’s not lightweight and fast, but built more like a tank. It can’t fly away so It just stays put and lets its specially designed armour take the abuse until the Predator gives up.”

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The Elytra protect their wings from bacteria in Beatles with aerial capabilities. Other damages also would prevent them from taking flight otherwise. Researchers said that in the case of the ironclad beetle, the Elytra has evolved to become a solid protective shield.

Jesus Rivera, a graduate student at UCI, working under Kisailus along with a team of researchers, performed a series of tests. These tests help to determine what factors contribute to the beatle’s ability to survive getting crushed. Ultimately the durability of the beetle’s body is because of the composition of its Elytra. Its Elytra has more protein than a beetle with flying capability, which may make it stronger.

Researchers said that the core parts of Elytra interlock like a jigsaw puzzle. When the pressure is applied to the Elytra, teacher dressing bend and break apart at the point of interlock, instead of that it may break up apart layer-by-layer or the individual layers of the Elytra blades delaminates.

Kisailus said that it allows for a more graceful failure of the structure. The Air Force helped in the funding for the research. It may very well prove to be beneficial for the development of ultra-durable aircraft.

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