Monster sized insects: Why is the world no longer a 1950s B-movie?


EXCERPT: . . . Insectophobes can celebrate the fact that humanity’s time on this planet mercifully came a full 360 million years after the period when Earth was covered in Meganeura, predatory dragonflies with two-foot-long wingspans. At the same time, the “lung scorpion,” a scorpion the size of a skateboard, scurried around beneath these giant dragonflies, accompanied by the eight-foot-long Arthropleura millipede. This terrible time on planet Earth is known as the Carboniferous period.

[...] Around 300 million years ago, however, Earth was saturated with oxygen. Today’s atmosphere is 21% oxygen, while the Carboniferous period had an atmosphere that was 35% oxygen. With this overabundance, insects’ respiratory systems could support larger bodies than what we think of as typical.

[...] Today, you might consider an insect “big” if it’s the length of your finger. About 150 million years ago, bugs suddenly began to shrink back down. This also coincides nicely with the appearance of the first birds, whose prey of choice would have been the ubiquitous, slow-moving and protein-rich bugs. Under assault from flying predators, being large was no longer an advantage, and insect sizes were reduced to a mere still-way-too-big rather than gargantuan...

Some days when I'm out in my boat fishing there are times when biting insects seem to be everywhere. I do as much swatting as fishing it seems. However there are days when dragonflies follow me around and the biters disappear. I'm guessing the dragonflies are taking care of business.. still if I had a preference would be to be bitten by a small bug than eaten by a colossal prehistoric one.

Just how.big were the first birds if they were dining on giant centipedes and the like?
(Jul 18, 2018 11:58 AM)Zinjanthropos Wrote: Just how.big were the first birds if they were dining on giant centipedes and the like?

Arthropleura actually disappeared before the arrival of pterosaurs and birds. Perhaps the more arid landscapes of the Permian did them in. Since they were herbivores, and a lack of predators might not have compelled even the development of unpleasant liquids excreted from defensive glands, they would arguably have been harmless, anyway. Apart from an abrupt encounter scaring some Jewish tourist named Peter into joining a messiah cult. (Whereas 9 centimeter or 3 and a half inch cockroaches plaguing a household -- though smaller in comparison -- might truly be unhealthy.)

In terms of an alternative history... The avian-like, amphibian, fish and water mite species that weren't the size of elephant birds could have gobbled up any lingering / surviving giant bugs when the latter were still in either youngster or larval stage. (Dragonfly larvae apparently prey on smaller versions of themselves, too.)


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