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Can insects reach the size of humans ?

Posted on Monday, 22 October, 2012 | Comment icon 35 comments | News tip by: Still Waters

Image credit: NZ Department of Conservation

Giant insects have been featured in science fiction films for years, but how big can they actually get ?

Researchers aren't exactly sure what limits the growth of insects. One possibility is that their exoskeletons may not be strong enough to support anything over a certain size, another is that if insects were too large they would make for too convenient a meal and that a smaller size helps them to avoid predators.

The most likely theory however is that insect size is limited by the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere. Fossils dating back 300 million years show that insects in the distant past were significantly larger than their modern counterparts most likely because there was a lot more oxygen in the air at the time. The more oxygen - the larger the insect and vice versa. There simply isn't enough oxygen in the atmosphere in the present day to support insects beyond a certain size.

"Support for this theory comes from the fact that about 300 million years ago, many insects were much larger than they are today."

  View: Full article |  Source: Live Science

  Discuss: View comments (35)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #26 Posted by The Unseen on 26 October, 2012, 4:13
I wouldn't like human sized spiders... Oh god... that gives me an idea. EDIT - I know why they don't grow bigger. In my biology classes (several years ago) I was taught that they have open (or it may have been closed) circulation systems and so alot of oxygen would have to be in the environment in order for them to grow to massive proportions. You are one smart person,I went to a pestcontrol class to get my licence,and that was one part of the lesson,If they had an open circulation system the oxygen would allow them to grow in such a manner that they would look at us like meals,not that ticks ... [More]
Comment icon #27 Posted by Realm on 26 October, 2012, 4:40
Just gotta have bigger windshields.
Comment icon #28 Posted by The Unseen on 26 October, 2012, 6:00
I just killed a cockroach. Squashed it with my foot. Glad I didn't have to resort to hand to hand combat. You are so right.My hand to hand training only showed me how to fight humans,dont know what would happen if the thing i was fighting had six arms.Eeeeeeee No Way.And I think our small arms would only make them a little angry and not to mention a can of raid would only make matters worse buy them asking for more.
Comment icon #29 Posted by Jinxdom on 26 October, 2012, 9:20
Great now all I can picture is mad scientists making earth in to an even worse(I say worse but love the movie) version of Starship Troopers.
Comment icon #30 Posted by MidKn13ght on 26 October, 2012, 20:49
I thought i saw a show/documentry about i wanna say pre-dinosaur earth evolution type thingy, and it said that insects and aracnades where the size of buses due to the oxygen to carbon dioxide or methan ratio.... or maybe it was about how an alien planet would form with methan..hmm
Comment icon #31 Posted by ad hoc on 3 November, 2012, 23:02
engineer them some lungs! that'll be good.
Comment icon #32 Posted by bugwatcher on 18 December, 2012, 16:48
Thank goodness nature prevents bugs growing to rule the world! This is down to the scaling law first recognised by Galileo. He identified that if the diameter of a sphere is increased twofold, the surface area is multiplied by 4 and the volume by 8. This means that elements of a body are not scaled up by the same amount. In other words a bug would become too heavy for its legs if it grew to say the size of a human.
Comment icon #33 Posted by Tsa-La-Gie Oyate on 18 December, 2012, 18:00
Evolution does strange things to make a species cope with changing environments around them, like in prehistoric times insects are able to adjust to larger body masses. I don't expect a resurge in primal reverse evolution within the next million years or so, if humans are around to witness first-hand the growth of insects and arthropods to average human size. The thought of it is interesting, but downright frightening. LOL!
Comment icon #34 Posted by g00dfella on 18 December, 2012, 18:47
Actually some insects were smaller back then, like cockroaches for we have the biggest in history. A bee the size of a car would have a tough time trying to pollinate and gather honey.
Comment icon #35 Posted by Taun on 18 December, 2012, 19:25
Fire ants are bad enough as is... could you imagine a nest full of those if they were the size of poodles?...

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