Thursday, February 01, 2007

The Speediest Killers On Six Long Legs

Tiger beetles, which occur everywhere, must surely be the sprint champions of the insect world. Their actual speed may not be impressive - only 2 ft (60 cm) a second, or 1.5 mph (2.5 km/h). Yet if a beetle were scaled up to horse size, this would be the equivalent of 250 mph (400 km/h).

At this speed, a tiger beetle can outpace any other insect, and its large, compound eyes give it distance vision of up to 5-6 in (13-15 cm). An unwary ant, for example, that passes within a handspan of a tiger beetle, will be caught after a quick, well-timed dash, and end up as a meal in less than a quarter of a second. All in all a fearsome hunter, the beetle owes its swiftness to its six long, slender legs. No less useful are its large, sharp, four-pointed jaws - formidable weapons for catching and dismembering prey.

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