What is the Largest Insect that Ever Lived?

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Insects, also known as arthropods (invertebrate animals with external skeleton), are the most numerous group of organisms on the planet, with about a million species identified so far. The title of the heaviest insect in the world has many competitors, but of those the most-frequently crowned is the larval stage of the goliath beetle (largest insects on the earth), Goliathus goliatus, the top size of which is at least 115g and 11.5 cm. The largest confirmed weight of an adult insect is 71 g (2.5 oz) for a giant weta, Deinacrida heteracantha, although it is likely one of the elephant beetles, Megasoma elephas and Megasoma actaeon, or Goliath beetles, both of which can commonly exceed 50 g (3oz) and 10 cm (4 inch), can reach a higher weight. The largest insects that ever lived are members of the extinct dragon-fly order Protodonata, which means “early dragonfly”. The name “griffinfly” has been proposed for members of this order because important differences distinguish them from modern-day dragonflies.


Which is the largest species in the Paleozoic era?

Protodonata’s fossil (traces of ancient life to find out more about the life on earth) records range from the Late Carboniferous to the Late Permian periods of the Paleozoic era. This was about 300 million years ago, before the dinosaurs, which evolved during the Mesozoic era. The largest known species is the Late Permian Meganeuropsis permiana, with wingspans longer than 75 cm (30 in or 2.5 ft) and an estimated weight of over 450 (1lb) , similar to a crow. This is larger than any insect that has ever lived on land or in the air. The late carboniferous Meganeura is a species of similar size to Meganeuropsis. It is assumed that at the time of the Carboniferous, there were so many trees and other oxygen producing plants which helped with the oxygen supply needed for the survival of those larger insects. This is also confirmed by the fossil records (collective accumulation of artifacts fossilized all over the world).


What is Meganeura?

Meganeura was a predator, feeding on other insects and even small amphibians. Its name means “large-veined” after the network of veins on its wings. Most fossils of Meganeura are just fragments of wings, although a few full wings and even fewer full body impressions have been found. The few body expressions dug up so far show a globose head, large mandibles, a large thorax, strong spiny legs and a long slender abdomen, like that of a dragon fly.


What are the largest insects on Earth?

  • Giant Walking stick: This is one of the best tropical insects to keep as a pet, the stick insect Phasmatodea, from the Greek word “phasma”, meaning phantom masking itself as varied species of sticks and leaves. The longest in the insect kingdom, it can measure up to almost 2 feet in length. Many species are female stick insects which live alone, reproducing asexually.
  • Goliath Beetle: Native to the African rainforest, the Goliath beetle is one of the largest insects on earth based on its size and weight. They measure up to 5 inches in length and can weigh up to 4 ounces while in their larval stage. They have armored shell, goliaths make toy helicopter sound once their 2 pairs of wings emerge when they are ready to fly. Male Goliath beetles have a ‘Y’ shaped horn on their heads to battle other males for feeding sites or for females, while females have a wedge-shaped head to help them in burrowing when they lay eggs.
  • Atlas Moth: It is the largest of the moth species with the largest wing surface area close to 65 square inches and a wingspan of up to a foot long. It is found in Southeast Asia.
  • Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing: Named after Queen Alexandra of England, the Queen Alexandra Bird wing (ornithoptera alexandrae) is the largest pretty butterfly in the world. Found in the Oro Province in eastern Papua New Guinea, females are predominantly larger than males and have a wing span of up to 14 inches. In danger of extinction, since 1989, the Bird wing has experienced habitat loss due to agriculture, logging and human advancement. 


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