Measuring about 1 millimeter in size, the oribatid mite or armored mite is recognized as the strongest creature on Earth. It can lift over 1,000 times its own body weight.
For us humans, being able to lift even double our own body weight is an impressive athletic achievement, but that pales in comparison to the strength displayed by creatures hundreds of times smaller. The Asian weaver ant, for example, can lift 100 times its own body weight, while the dung beetle can lift up to 400 times its body weight. That’s like a human being able to lift tens of tonnes, you know, Superman stuff. But even these impressive insects don’t come close to the strongest creature on the face of the planet, the tiny oribatid mite, which, thanks to an extremely strong exoskeleton, can lift a whopping 1,180 times its own body weight.
Photo: Katja Schulz/Flickr
The oribatid mite is about the size of a grain of sand, measuring between 0.2mm and 1.4mm, but when it comes to power relative to size and weight, it is by far the strongest animal in the world. To match its strength, a human should be able to lift about 82 tonnes.
One of the main reasons that oribatid mites and many other insects tend to be so much stronger than other animals is their exoskeleton. It’s considerably lighter and stronger than bone, allowing them to devote more energy to muscle power. But there are also other factors at play, such as the ratio of its surface area to its volume and mass. A mite weighs just 100 micrograms.
Photo: S. Rae/Flickr
If the armored mite would be the size of a human, it would be extremely weak, due to simple physics. Bigger creatures may have bigger muscles, but a lot of their strength goes to supporting their own weight. In contrast, tiny insects can dedicate more of their muscle power to weightlifting, because they have less mass to carry around.
Oribatid mites live in the soil of forest floors and play a crucial role in breaking down organic material, similar to earthworms. They also contribute to seed dispersal, improve soil structure, and reduce insect pathogens as well as parasites that are harmful to humans and livestock.