Mammals are an unlikely sidebar on the history of life


Human civilizations have developed over the last several thousand years. Insects have successfully co-evolved with terrestrial ecosystems over the last four hundred million years. Insects are so successful that it is not much of an exaggeration to say that they literally rule the planet. Our egos allow us to think that we rule the earth with our technology, our cities, and our civilizations, but if we were to suddenly become extinct, the living conditions for most species would be greatly improved with only a few exceptions. On the other hand, if all insects become extinct, the terrestrial environment would collapse into chaos.

This paragraph is excerpted from the introduction to “Planet of the Bugs” by Scott Richard Shaw.


Featured Image: Xylocopa cubaecola, female, on the base of Guantanamo Bay, GTMO, Cuba, endemic Cuban Carpenter Bee, USGS/Sam Droege


  1. I think this paragraph contains a fallacy. It is unfair to compare the human race to “all insects”. What would happen if only one species of ants go extinct? I think it might not be catastrophic at all. In fact, it is something that happens on daily bases. Even if we compare “insects” with “mammals”, these two categories are arbitraries, defined over perceived similarity. The first contains far more species than the second.

    • Thank you for your comment. You are right, It’s probably not fair to compare us with all of insects. It’s loaded language, and the intention is precisely to provoke an emotional reaction by making “us” aware of “our” broader context. And the fact there are more species of insects, well it just shows that we are not so important… yet.

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