ISLAMABAD-A quarter-pound shrew can bear the weight of a fully grown man thanks to its unique interlocking backbones that make its spine incredibly strong, a study has found. The small greyish-brown mammals — which are related to moles and hedgehogs — look like chubby, long-nosed rats, but have one of the strangest skeletons. Scientists aren’t sure why the tiny animals developed such bizarre backbones. However, a US study that scanned the shrew’s super-strong spines has shown that they can support considerable force from head-to-tail. This capacity would support the unproven theory that the creatures use their spines as a brace as they force open palm tree trunks to get at insects to eat.

Western scientists only became aware of hero shrews around a century ago — however the Mangbetu people of the Congo Basin have long known of the shrews’ incredible strength. According to one story, the Mangbetu people once showed American and European scientists how a grown man can stand on a hero shrew’s back without hurting it.