Scientists Discover Tough Beetle’s Secret

Category: Science/Environment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. exoskeleton / ˌɛk soʊˈskɛl ɪ tn / (n) – a hard outer layer that covers, supports, and protects an animal that has a soft body

    Some insects have tough exoskeletons that protect them from being eaten by other animals.

  2. withstand / wɪθˈstænd / (v) – to be able to take something difficult or damaging without being destroyed or broken

    Many older phones can withstand falling from a great height.

  3. physique / fɪˈzik / (n) – the physical structure or appearance of something

    She exercises often to maintain a fit physique.

  4. craggy / ˈkræg i / (adj) – rough and uneven

    The mountainside was full of craggy rocks that made the hike difficult.

  5. interlock / ˌɪn tərˈlɒk / (v) – to connect things together

    She interlocked her fingers before stretching her arms.


Read the text below.

A team of scientists from the University of California has uncovered the mystery behind the extreme durability of an insect called the diabolical ironclad beetle.

The study uncovered the reason why the beetle has an extraordinarily tough exoskeleton.

A previous study found that the diabolic ironclad beetle is capable of enduring pressure equivalent to 39,000 times its weight. The study involved an experiment where a car ran over a diabolical ironclad beetle twice. Both times, the insect was able to withstand the impact.

Now, scientists have discovered that the beetle’s unique physique allows it to evenly distribute pressure throughout its body, allowing it to adapt to any kind of force.

To understand the beetle’s exoskeletal structure, the scientists examined the insect underneath a microscope. The scientists also recreated a 3D-printed image of the beetle’s exoskeleton for better imaging. They found that the craggy insect had interlocked layers and tight joints.

Using metal, plastic, and other materials, the scientists assembled models based on the beetle’s physique to assess the strength of its structure. The scientists found that following the same structure as the beetle improved the durability of the materials.

Study lead author David Kisailus said that the research could lead to the development of more sturdy, impact-resistant materials in the future. He added that this may also pave the way for designing better body armor, vehicles, buildings, bridges, and other infrastructure.

Adriane Minori, a mechanical engineer from the University of California, San Diego, agrees. He believes that engineers and designers can learn a lot from the beetle’s exoskeleton.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think it’s important to find ways to create materials that cannot be destroyed? Why or why not?
• Do you think that studies on the insect are valuable? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think nature is a good inspiration for future technology? Why or why not?
• What are some things that can benefit from copying designs from nature (e.g. buildings, cars)?