June 20, 2024

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Can Insects Grow To The Size Of A Human And Rule The World?

2 min read

Insect Strength Compared To Size

The rhinoceros beetle is a colossus in insect terms and is ranked among the mightiest animals on earth compared to its body weight. You have probably heard that the rhino beetle can carry up to 850 times its own weight without even buckling at the knee segments, incredible!

Indeed, it is proportionally stronger than an elephant which is the strongest land animal in terms of brute force.

Having said that, it’s worth mentioning that if an elephant were shrunk to the size of a bug its strength in relation to its mass would increase x-fold.

All this is down to a phenomenon known as the scaling law officially recognized by Galileo in 1638.

The Scaling Law Preventing Insects From Becoming Giant Monsters

Galileo discovered that if a sphere’s diameter is increased by 2, the surface area is multiplied by 4 and the volume eightfold. This signifies that elements of a body are not scaled up or down by the same amount.

In plain terms, if a bug grew to the size of an elephant without changing the original shape of its body, it would be so heavy in proportion to its legs that it wouldn’t be able to move its own carcass, let alone carry eight hundred and fifty times its own weight.

It would need to radically modify its proportions starting with its legs. This can be illustrated in the growth proportions of a human being.

In the human, the head becomes proportionally smaller and the legs larger and stronger as the person grows to adult size. If the legs remained proportionally the same from infancy to adulthood they wouldn’t have the strength to hold the body.

Increased Need For Oxygen And Food

There are other anatomical constraints such as the insect respiratory system, which would become insufficient with the increased volume compared to the bug’s surface area. It would require lungs instead of just absorbing air through its spiracles to be able to meet its increased need for oxygen.

Furthermore, unless it was born in a massive dung pile the size of a hillock, it would not be able to provide itself with the huge amounts of food it would require to keep going.

So rest reassured, even if someone invented a magic hormone drug to grow, say, cockroaches to the size of a human, the resulting monsters would be about as nimble as a wheel dozer with flat tires. Unless, of course, their morphology evolved.

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