Beetles are by far the largest order of insects: the roughly 400,000 species make up about 40% of all insect species so far described, and about 25% of all animals. A 2015 study provided four independent estimates of the total number of beetle species, giving a mean estimate of some 1.5 million with a "surprisingly narrow range" spanning all four estimates from a minimum of 0.9 to a maximum of 2.1 million beetle species. The four estimates made use of host-specificity relationships (1.5 to 1.9 million), ratios with other taxa (0.9 to 1.2 million), plant:beetle ratios (1.2 to 1.3), and extrapolations based on body size by year of description (1.7 to 2.1 million).
Beetles are found in nearly all habitats, including freshwater and coastal habitats, wherever vegetative foliage is found, from trees and their bark to flowers, leaves, and underground near roots - even inside plants in galls, in every plant tissue, including dead or decaying ones. Tropical forest canopies have a large and diverse fauna of beetles, including Carabidae, Chrysomelidae, and Scarabaeidae.
The heaviest beetle, indeed the heaviest insect stage, is the larva of the goliath beetle, Goliathus goliatus, which can attain a mass of at least 115 g (4.1 oz) and a length of 11.5 cm (4.5 in). Adult male goliath beetles are the heaviest beetle in its adult stage, weighing 70–100 g (2.5–3.5 oz) and measuring up to 11 cm (4.3 in). Adult elephant beetles, Megasoma elephas and Megasoma actaeon often reach 50 g (1.8 oz) and 10 cm (3.9 in).
The longest beetle is the Hercules beetle Dynastes hercules, with a maximum overall length of at least 16.7 cm (6.6 in) including the very long pronotal horn. The smallest recorded beetle and the smallest free-living insect (as of 2015), is the featherwing beetle Scydosella musawasensis which may measure as little as 325 μm in length.