Diabolical Ironclad Beetle
Photo credit: Jesus Rivera / UCI
Found mainly in the U.S. Southwest, the diabolical ironclad beetle hides under rocks and inside trees, but thanks to an exoskeleton, it can even survive being run over by a car. That’s right, its crush-resistant structures makes it nearly indestructible, specifically, its elytra. The elytra are basically the forewing blades that open and close to safeguard the flight wings from bacteria, but the ironclad’s elytra have evolved to become a solid, protective shield. Read more for two videos and additional information.

The elytra on the outside surfaces of these blades also feature arrays of rodlike elements called microtrichia that scientists believe act as frictional pads, providing resistance to slippage. Researchers are studying the ironclad’s exoskeleton to develop advanced, fiber-reinforced composite materials based on these characteristics.

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The ironclad is a terrestrial beetle, so it’s not lightweight and fast but built more like a little tank. 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,” said principle investigator and corresponding author David Kisailus, UCI professor of materials science & engineering.