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HERCULES BEETLE





These beetles are named after a mythological (that means made up, because there isn't any evidence he was real) super-strong Roman god called Hercules- and no wonder... they might not be huge, being only about 17cm long, but they really are very powerful!

Their scary looking jaws help them move enormous weights much heavier than themselves. Human scientists have carefully tested these beetles, and found out that they can lift something that is 85 times as much as their own weight! That's like if a human being was the same size of a Hercules beetle and it went and lifted something as heavy as three cars!

So, for it's size, the Hercules beetle is one of the strongest animal in the world that we know about so far... although we might discover an even stronger one soon, as scientists learn more and more about the natural world. Obviously, it's not literally as strong as something as big as, say, an elephant, but all these things are what's called relative. An elephant definitely couldn't lift 85 times it's own weight!

It's only the men Hercules beetles that have these huge jaws, and they use them to fight other males. Here's two of them trying to prove who's strongest, and make the other one go away!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A2I2yc_OeoU

Being an insect, it's very different to most of the animals I met... it doesn't have any bones inside it! In fact you could say it's skeleton is on it's outside. Instead of skin, it has a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton. All of it's muscles are attached to the inside of this shell.

There are plenty more facts about them on this website-

http://www.softschools.com/facts/animals/hercules_beetle_facts/248/

What's even stranger is that during it's life, it has two completely different bodies! For the first year or two, it looks like a very big maggot, without the huge jaws or hard shell, and it eats rotting wood. At this stage in it's life it's what's called a larvae.

It then stops moving at all, and develops a hard crust around it called a 'pupae', inside which something amazing happens to it- it completely changes its body into that of the adult beetle, and then breaks out of this container and starts a different kind of life, complete with long jaws, wings and a new diet of fruit!

This kind of amazing change in the life of an animal like this is called a metamorphosis. Lots of creatures do it- butterflies, frogs and mosquitoes to name a few. Imagine if you could!

You can learn more about metamorphosis here, including fantastic speeded up 'time-lapse' videos of it happening-

http://www.neok12.com/Metamorphosis.htm

The Hercules beetle lives in the rainforests found in South and Central America. Like a lot of creatures in places like that, their future is threatened by humans cutting down the huge old trees that grow there for wood, or to clear the area for cattle to graze in.