The Life of Insects

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This protects their larvae and gives them a separate food source from adults so they are not in competition. They are tightly associated with specific plants, giving them especially important roles within eco-systems. With some 60, species in a number of families, they are also highly diverse and specialised, even for a family of beetles.

The Life of Insects | novel by Pelevin |

So far so human-centric. Were he alive today and reading this article, the American scientist and popular science author Stephen Jay Gould would probably protest that we have so far missed a form of life that has proved even more adaptable, is indestructible and astonishingly diverse. We are living, wrote Gould, in the Age of Bacteria. Wolbachia provide a particularly good example of the below-the-radar dominance of bacteria.

Extremely widespread and devious, they live within the cells of around two-thirds of insects and other arthropods, such as spiders and mites. They can pass between species. And they exert their dominance by messing with the reproduction of almost every animal they infect, causing some species to change sex, killing off males, and altering their sperm. In doing so, they have in turn affected the survival and evolution of thousands of other species.

For starters some Wolbachia can induce changes to turn male butterflies, woodlice and crustaceans into females, thereby doubling their chances of being passed on. For the same reason, they can also trigger chromosome changes that allow females of some bees, wasps and ants to make clones of themselves, reproducing without the need for males, and fertilisation by sperm.

Chapter 1 – Russian Forest

Then there are their male-killing abilities. Research by Greg Hurst , Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Liverpool, UK, has established that Wolbachia can trigger the death of some male ladybird and butterfly embryos in species in which there is strong competition for resources among young siblings. The females become stronger, and by eating their dead brothers they are better able to help spread the bacteria. Wolbachia has yet another cunning ability — it can modify the sperm of infected males.

This means an infected male mosquito, for example, can only have viable offspring if it mates with a female infected with the same Wolbachia strain. On top of this, insects and other arthropods can pick up genes from the bacteria, potentially speeding up the process of the emergence of new species, through lateral gene transfer. But of course there is more to the Earth than what takes place on land.

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And not everything that makes oxygen is a plant. In fact, before cyanobacteria evolved as the first photosynthetic organisms over 2. This change to an oxygen-rich atmosphere laid the foundations for the biodiversity we see on Earth today. If you look up and down the sizes of living things, microbes dominate their scale, humans dominate their scale, ants tend to dominate things in between. Cyanobacteria form motile strings of cells that can break away from their colonies to form new ones.

They can be found in almost all aquatic and terrestrial habitats, living within lichens, plants and animals, as well as forming giant visible blue-green blooms in the oceans. Apart from generating oxygen, their other pivotal role comes from their ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into organic nitrate or ammonia, which plants need to get from soil to grow. These roles in nitrogen fixing and early photosynthesis, as well as their ubiquity across habitats, have led scientists such as Ian Stewart of the University of Queensland, Australia, and Ian Falconer of the University of Adelaide, Australia, to argue that cyanobacteria such as trichodesmium are the most important and successful microorganisms on Earth.

Even this cursory look at a handful of life forms from disparate corners of the tree of life reveals that it is easier to talk about organisms being more dominant or having greater impacts at different physical scales. Beyond counting individual numbers, weight and surface area cover, the definition of dominance as impact on other life forms and their environment varies according to the priorities of those defining the terms.

View image of How dominant are fungi? Credit: Gary K. While efforts to claim top dog status for any single life form will always founder on questions of definitions, what such discussions surely highlight is the complex interdependency that exists between the millions of different species of life on Earth. Earth Menu.

Attenboroughs and the Empire of the Ants 2018- Ant Documentary- BBC

Extreme Life Which life form dominates Earth? Which organism has had the biggest impact on the planet? Share on Facebook. Buckingham G. Bryant E. Bryant S. Carey J. Science Washington Go to original source Carlsson G. Clare G. Clifford H. Collins R. Corbet P. Cornell H. Cranford J. Crill W. Evolution Go to original source Cronin J. Danks H. Lepidoptera: Noctuidae as hosts. In Danks H. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, pp.

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Insects are dying at an alarming rate - and this is terrible news for life on Earth

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