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Thread: If insects weren't limited by their breathing organs

  1. #1 If insects weren't limited by their breathing organs 
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    If insects would've evolved a more efficient way to breathe at some point in their evolution, would they have evolved larger species and be able to compete with mid to giant sized mammals, reptiles, dinosaurs, sea mammals, fishes, birds, pterosaurs, etc?

    What evolutionary paths do you think insects would have taken? Do you think that it's only their breathing organs that holds them back to evolve larger species?

    Thank you for your answer.


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    They seem to compete effectively now by being small but numerous.
    Giant insects disappeared thanks to falling oxygen levels and agile birds – Phenomena


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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_90 View Post
    If insects would've evolved a more efficient way to breathe at some point in their evolution, would they have evolved larger species . . .
    No. The exoskeleton design puts a pretty hard limit on how big they can get (the old square-cubed law.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_90 View Post
    If insects would've evolved a more efficient way to breathe at some point in their evolution, would they have evolved larger species and be able to compete with mid to giant sized mammals, reptiles, dinosaurs, sea mammals, fishes, birds, pterosaurs, etc?
    Not sure what you mean by complete...they are "winning" by numbers, biomass, number of species, and biodiversity--it's not even close. (of course I'm being a bit silly...they are surviving well..that's the only valid measure)
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    What I meant with "compete" is being able to become rivals to the bigger animals. Like insects evolving into successful enormous herbivores, wander away and end up competing with... let's say elephants. Or the same but with predators... insects competing with giant cats, hunting the same preys... or even rivaling giant Theropods. What's intresting for me is that as insects are so different from reptiles and mammals I've been wondering how they would evolve if they would take this path to become much, much larger and filling various niches currenlty filled by mammals and reptiles.

    This is the main point of my question, basicly if insects would have a big chance of this if they weren't restricted by their breathing organs.
    (and their exoskeleton I suppose aswell)
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_90 View Post
    This is the main point of my question, basicly if insects would have a big chance of this if they weren't restricted by their breathing organs.
    (and their exoskeleton I suppose aswell)
    If they had different lungs and internal skeletons, they wouldn't be insects...
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_90 View Post
    What I meant with "compete" is being able to become rivals to the bigger animals. Like insects evolving into successful enormous herbivores, wander away and end up competing with... let's say elephants.
    That's what happened. About 540 million years ago, acorn worms (Enteropneusta) started evolving a dorsal nerve cord. They evolved into the animal Pikakia gracilens, which was the first organism with a notochord (early spine.) They then evolved into things like rhinoceroses, which I guess you could call "elephant competition."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flick Montana View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Erik_90 View Post
    This is the main point of my question, basicly if insects would have a big chance of this if they weren't restricted by their breathing organs.
    (and their exoskeleton I suppose aswell)
    If they had different lungs and internal skeletons, they wouldn't be insects...
    I suppose thats true. I guess I'd have to make my question more complex before being able to ask properly.
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