This diabolical ironclad beetle can survive being run over by a car

Scientists are unraveling the mystery of a bug with one of the coolest names in the animal kingdom: the diabolical ironclad beetle. 


© David Kisailus / UCI

Phloeodes diabolicus has one of the toughest natural exoskeletons scientists have ever seen. According to research published Wednesday in the journal Nature, the insect’s armor is so durable, few predators have successfully made a meal out of it — and it can even survive getting run over by a car.

This is a bug that scientists famously need to drill a hole into before they can stick a pin through it. 

A team from Purdue University and the University of California, Irvine (UCI) have deduced that when an extreme amount of pressure is put on the beetle, its “crush-resistant” shell adapts to the situation by stretching, rather than shattering. Its nearly indestructible shell, coupled with its convincing acting skills when it comes to playing dead, leave the beetle with few predators.  

a small insect on a rock: Native to desert habitats in Southern California, the diabolical ironclad beetle has an exoskeleton that's one of the toughest, most crush-resistant structures known to exist in the animal kingdom. / Credit: David Kisailus / UCI

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Native to desert habitats in Southern California, the diabolical ironclad beetle has an exoskeleton that’s one of the toughest, most crush-resistant structures known to exist in the animal kingdom. / Credit: David Kisailus / UCI

“The ironclad is a terrestrial beetle, so it’s not lightweight and fast but built more like a little tank,” lead author David Kisailus, a UCI professor of materials science and engineering, said in a news release. “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.”


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In compression tests, researchers found the beetle can withstand a force of about 39,000 times its body weight — the equivalent of a 200-pound man enduring the weight of 7.8 million pounds. 

So, how does the seemingly indestructible bug manage to survive against all odds? 

Scientists have found that the shell of the bug, which is native to desert habitats in the Southwestern U.S., has evolved to protect it. Specifically, its elytra — the blades that open and close on the wings of aerial beetles — have fused together to act as a solid shield for the beetle, which can’t fly. 

Analysis of the elytra revealed that it’s made of layers of chitin, a fibrous material, and a protein matrix. Its exoskeleton contains about 10% more protein by weight than that of a lighter, flying beetle.

Under compression, the jigsaw puzzle-like structure of the elytra doesn’t snap as expected, but rather, fractures slowly.

A cross-section of the medial suture, where two halves of the diabolical ironclad beetle's elytra meet, shows the puzzle piece configuration that's among the keys to the insect's incredible durability.  / Credit: Jesus Rivera / UCI

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A cross-section of the medial suture, where two halves of the diabolical ironclad beetle’s elytra meet, shows the puzzle piece configuration that’s among the keys to the insect’s incredible durability.  / Credit: Jesus Rivera / UCI

“When you break a puzzle piece, you expect it to separate at the neck, the thinnest part,” Kisailus said. “But we don’t see that sort of catastrophic split with this species of beetle. Instead, it delaminates, providing for a more graceful failure of

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University of Arizona students asked to minimize holiday travel to stem COVID spread

The school will also be doing a “testing blitz” prior to Thanksgiving.

The University of Arizona has reported at least 2,433 COVID-19 infections among students and staff as of Oct. 20, according to university tracking data.

U of A said it is testing on-campus students every week in order to identify and quarantine asymptomatic cases. While the high number of infections is concerning, the university’s positivity rate for COVID-19 tests is currently 0.07%, well below the 5% threshold recommended by the World Health Organization.

The school also is planning a testing blitz beginning Nov. 9 in order to reduce the risk that students will spread COVID-19 into other communities if they travel during the holidays, President Robert Robbins explained on Monday during a remote briefing he holds weekly for students.

Students also will be asked to fill out a survey detailing their travel plans during Thanksgiving break and are encouraged to finish the semester remotely if they leave the Tucson area for Thanksgiving.

“Our primary goal is to minimize the impact of student travel on community spread of COVID-19,” Robbins said.

PHOTO: A student wears a protective mask while walking through the campus at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., Aug. 24, 2020.

A student wears a protective mask while walking through the campus at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Ariz., Aug. 24, 2020.

There have been more than 233,000 infections and 5,800 deaths in Arizona due to COVID-19, according to the state health department.

According to data from The COVID Tracking Project, new cases, testing positivity rate and COVID-19 hospitalizations are on the rise in Arizona. Experts consider deaths from COVID-19 to be a lagging indictor of the outbreak’s severity, meaning they trail behind indicators like daily infections and hospitalizations.

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    Matthew Stafford faces ‘good buddy’ Matt Ryan in first game back in Georgia since college

    ALLEN PARK — While most remain fixated on Matthew Stafford’s relationship with Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw as the World Series unfolds, the Detroit Lions quarterback will face one of his best friends in Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan this weekend.

    This matchup also represents Stafford’s first game back in Georgia since he was leading the Bulldogs more than a decade ago. The Lions quarterback spoke with reporters via Zoom on Wednesday, detailing his “unique and special” relationship with Ryan. The two have vacationed together, won a church league basketball championship in Atlanta and their wives remain close friends. Stafford chalked the pair’s bond up to similar life experiences as NFL quarterbacks with intimate ties to the state of Georgia.

    “They’ve been awesome. From a male perspective, there’s only 32 other guys, 31 other guys that kind of do what I do and what he does,” Stafford said. “Not too many of us leftover that have done it for as long as we have, so it’s great to have somebody just to talk with (and) about during the season and during the offseason. He’s obviously a great player and a great friend of mine. Our wives get along extremely well. We really all four get along great. They’ve been there for us when we’ve been through tough times. We’ve tried to be there for them when they’re going through tough times.

    “It’s a unique and special relationship that I know as my wife, and I do, (that) we cherish that one—a lot of common experiences in life. Always helps when your wives get together and they’re really good friends too, so a lot of similar experiences. He’s a great guy, easy to get along with. I’m sure if you ask all his teammates, they’ll tell you the same thing.”

    Stafford said the two remain in contact throughout the season and that they will likely have a friendly dinner wager on Sunday’s game. Ryan, while speaking with reporters, said the friendship grew when he found out the two lived nearby in the offseason after bonding at the Pro Bowl in 2014.

    The Lions (2-3) and Falcons (1-5) haven’t exactly gotten off to stellar starts on the year, with both blowing their fair share of leads.

    Detroit rode the rushing attack to its 34-16 win in Jacksonville last week, though. Stafford hasn’t been as sharp as he was last season but has started to look downfield more often. Ryan, on the other hand, is the reigning NFC offensive player of the week after tossing four touchdowns in the win against the Vikings.

    “You know, I feel like when we play, we’re both competitive dudes,” Stafford said. “We just want to go win. We’ll probably have a dinner wager on it, or something like that, something friendly. We’ll be just trying to beat each other. I’ll obviously pay attention when he’s on the field like I do with every other quarterback. He’ll do the same, I’m sure when I’m out there but trying to go

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    NASA’s OSIRIS-REx TAGs Surface of Asteroid Bennu

    Captured on October 20, 2020, during the OSIRIS-REx mission’s Touch-And-Go (TAG) sample collection event, this series of images shows the SamCam imager’s field of view as the NASA spacecraft approaches and touches down on asteroid Bennu’s surface, over 200 million miles (321 million km) away from Earth. The sampling event brought the spacecraft down to sample site Nightingale, touching down within three feet (one meter) of the targeted location. Preliminary data show the one-foot-wide (0.3-meter-wide) sampling head touched Bennu’s surface for approximately 6 seconds, after which the spacecraft performed a back-away burn. NASA/UPI

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    ’22 WR Joseph Griffin II Commits To Boston College

    Earlier today we wrote about Boston College locking down the state of Massachusetts. Today the Eagles landed their second Bay State commitment, with wide receiver Joseph Griffin II announcing his commitment

    The Springfield (MA) receiver is the second Massachusetts wide receiver to commit in the past two days, joining Ismael Zamor who committed on Tuesday. He is a high three star recruit according to 247sports, and hold offers from Virginia, Wake Forest, Duke and UMass. 

    Griffin is considered the #2 commitment in the state. With his pledge, Boston College has the #2, #3, and #4 Massachusetts recruits in the Class of 2022. The next big name to watch is the top rated recruit Ty Chan, an offensive lineman from Lawrence Academy. A source told me that Boston College is in constant contact with the four star lineman who also has offers from Notre Dame and Penn State. 

    While Zamor is a bit smaller, Griffin is a huge target, at 6’4 he would already be the biggest wide receiver on the roster. The duo will give BC an excellent pair of wide receivers in the class, and the best part is that they are both local recruits. Before Griffin’s commitment Boston College had the 6th ranked recruiting class in nation. While this probably won’t last, the team has been lauded lately for their recruiting efforts.

    Stay tuned to BC Bulletin for any further updates on this commitment. 

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    NASA reaches out and touches an asteroid 320 million kilometers away

    OSIRIS-REx collects samples from asteroid Bennu.

    NASA scientists confirmed Wednesday that the OSIRIS-REx spacecraft successfully made contact with an asteroid a day earlier, touching the surface for six seconds and collecting dust and pebbles from its surface.

    The spacecraft’s performance at the asteroid Bennu, which is only about as wide as the Empire State Building is tall, was remarkable. Because the asteroid is so small, its gravity is negligible, which complicates orbital maneuvering by the spacecraft around what is, essentially, a rubble pile.

    Despite these challenges, at a distance of 320 million kilometers on Tuesday, NASA engineers and scientists programmed a spacecraft to autonomously touch down within a single meter of its target area.

    Newly released images of the encounter show the spacecraft’s sampling arm moving toward the asteroid at a speed of 10cm per second and crushing rocks beneath it as it reaches the surface.

    “Literally, we crushed it,” said Dante Lauretta, principal investigator of the OSIRIS-REx mission. “When the spacecraft made contact, that rock appears to fragment and shatter, which is great news.” This is because the “head” of the sampling arm can only collect material less than 2cm in diameter.

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