09 May

Insect Athletes: Higher, Faster, Stronger

DungBeetle

Competition starts at an early age. Kids begin seeing who is the highest jumper, fastest runner, or strongest kid in grade school. For some kids, this becomes a passion and an athlete is born. No matter how fast or strong we get however, insects will always have us beat.

Hyper Hopper

The highest insect jump recorded in the Guinness Book of World records is held by the froghopper. http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/records-1000/highest-jump-by-an-insect/. Its rear legs are built for jumping, when not in use the legs drag on the ground. A froghopper can rocket its little body to a towering height of 28 inches, which is the approximate length of a human arm. Remember though, the hopper is only a quarter of an inch long. In comparison, a person jumping with the same body size to length ratio as a hopper would be able to vault over 600 feet. That’s the length of two football fields. During a jump, the froghopper accelerates to a speed of 13,000 feet per second and experiences a G-force of 414 times its body weight. On a roller coaster, we experience two G-forces and astronauts during blast off only experience 6 to 7.

Mighty Mites

At 27.79 miles per hour, the Jamaican sprinter, Usain Bolt is the fastest human ever recorded. That’s fast, but a cheetah can run upwards of 58 miles per hour. Would you believe that a tiny mite has them both beat? Eight legs included, this little arachnid is about the size of a sesame seed. Its top speed is 11.8 inches per second. At first glance that wouldn’t seem like rubber-smoking racecar fast, at least until the proper comparison is made. Using body length speed (how fast an organism can traverse its body length) the contrast is alarming. Usain can run 6 body lengths per second. The cheetah, hits 16. The little mite? In one second, it can cover 322 body lengths. A human running that fast would clock in at 1,300 miles per hour. That’s faster than a commercial jet.

Powerful Poo-Roller

Weighing in at .75 ounces, with a length of 2.4 inches the dung beetle is the heavy weight champion of the insect world. It can pull 1,141 times its own body weight. If a 150-pound human were able to lift that much it would be the equivalent of 88 tons. Put into perspective, that is about the weight of 6 double decker buses. They need this strength to roll up dung balls and fight off poo thieves. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/03/25/the-mightiest-mite-dung-beetle-is-crowned-worlds-strongest-bug/#.U2zTCFe9Y3U. Though dung beetles never reach the speeds of the mighty mite, they can still move. In one trip to the bathroom, an elephant can drop 20 pounds of crap. 16,000 dung beetles show up on the scene and the poo is gone in under two hours. With all the competition, dung beetles have to be strong and fast. What was that saying, the early beetle gets the . . .? Dung beetles are fantastic for agriculture; in parts of Texas, the beetle disposes of over 80% of total cattle droppings.

Ever heard the term; there’s always going to be someone bigger, faster and stronger? In the case of competition, insects rule the world.

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