A big horn, a love for all things muddy and a rotund body – it is little wonder how the Rhinoceros beetle (Dynastinae) earned its name. They are one of the “Small Five” and just as charismatic as their larger namesakes.
Somewhat toy-like in appearance, their characteristic gait resembles that of a wind-up toy. While their glossy black exoskeleton looks almost too perfect to be real. Yet it is perfect for getting dug in, which is exactly what Rhino beetles love to do.
Two Rhino beetles. Photo credit: Owlcation.com
What’s with the horn?
Nocturnal by nature, most species of rhino beetle like to dig into leaf litter and shelter from the sun. So their horn is pretty handy. It can also produce a gentle pinch, when they move their head and thorax together making both horns meet. However, the real use for their horn is in attracting a mate.
Males are highly territorial and will fight for the opportunity to mate with a female, meaning their horns come in really useful. It is thought females also judge males on their horn’s length – proving that for some species size does matter! The horn often indicates the health and well-being of the beetle.
Future of aviation
Anyone who has been brutally bombarded by a rhino beetle during a fly-by attack may feel they are less than proficient fliers. However, a study being conducted by the National Science Foundation focusing on the aerodynamic abilities of a certain species may influence aircraft design in the future.
Not only strong fliers, rhino beetles are one of the Hercules of the insect world able to carry weights 850 times their own body weight. This is the equivalent of a human lifting 10 tons, making tiny rhino beetles one of the world’s strongest species.
There are so many things about these wonderful beetles that might surprise you, which is why we have compiled our top five rhino beetle facts:
1. Fearsome squeak – When threatened the rhino beetle lets out a fearsome hiss/squeak, a noise it makes by rubbing its abdomen against its wing cases.
2. Favourite pet – In Asia rhino beetles have become prized pets and in some cases people gamble using them. Inducing two males to fight over a female, with the winner being the beetle who can stay positioned on a stick. We however, prefer our beetles to be wild!
3. Protein packed – Rhino beetle larvae are said to be 40% protein, making them twice as protein packed as chicken (20%) or beef (18%) and a possible solution to our increasing protein needs.
4. Huge family tree – There are 300 species of rhino beetle worldwide, with species found in almost every non-industrialised country.
5. Not the only Big 5 beetle – Did you know, there is also an elephant beetle known as Megasoma elephas.