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An arthropod is an invertebrate that has jointed limbs and a segmented body with an exoskeleton made of chitin. Having three layers, an exoskeleton of an arthropod provides protection and support. The epidermis secretes all three of the layers. The waxy outer layer is composed of a mixture of protein and lipid that repels water and helps prevent dehydration in terrestrial species. The mid-layer is the primary protection of an arthropod; however this layer contains protein and chitin. Like the mid-layer, the inner layer also contains protein and chitin, but it is flexible at the joints to allow the arthropods to move freely. The muscles attach to the inner layer on either side of the joints and move body segments relative to each other. Since the arthropod’s skeleton is on the outside of its body, it can not grow without shedding its exoskeleton. This process is molting which occurs many times during an arthropod’s lifetime and with each molt, the arthropod becomes larger. In between molts, tissues will swell until they put great pressure on the exoskeleton. Producing a hormone that induces molting, cells of the epidermis respond and secrete enzymes that digest the flexible inner layer. At the same time, the epidermis begins to synthesize another exoskeleton at the same time. The old exoskeleton then loosens and breaks along specific lines and is shed as a new exoskeleton stretches to fit the enlarged arthropod. Arthropods are extremely vulnerable to predators for a few days after molting causing them to go into hiding from the start of their molt
until the new exoskeleton is hard. These arthropod characteristics first appear in animals from over 600 million years ago. Biologists infer that arthropods have all evolved from a common ancestor because all arthropods have a true coelom, an exoskeleton, and jointed appendages. Various groups of arthropods living today have undergone similar changes during evolution. For instance, ancestral arthropods most likely had one pair of appendages on every segment, however most living species have segments that lack appendages. Unlike ancestral arthropods that had bodies consisting of many segments, most living species’ segments fuse into a number of larger structures called tagmata. Tagmata specialize in performing functions such as feeding, locomotion, and reproduction. Trilobita, crustacea, chelicerata, and unirama, are the four subphyla of arthropoda and have a basis on differences in development and in structure of mouthparts and other appendages. Entomologists, scientists who engage in the study of insects, classify insects into more that 30 orders based on characteristics such as the structure of mouthparts, number of wings, and type of development. Many adaptations of insects are characteristics that they share with other arthropods such as a segmented body, jointed appendages, and an exoskeleton. The thorax, abdomen, and head are the three tagmata the insect body divides into. The thorax has three pairs of jointed legs and one or two pairs of wings. The abdomen is composed of nine to eleven segments; however in adults it has neither wings nor legs. The head contains one pair of antennae and mandibles; the antennae and other appendages are unbranched. Most insects are small, one of the smallest being the fairyfly who has a length of 0.2 millimeters (0.008 inches) while some insects are larger in length such as the African Goliath beetle which exceeds 10 centimeters (4 inches) and the atlas moth that has a wingspan of over 25 centimeters (10
inches). Insects are by far the most successful class of arthropods. Insects owe their success to their segmented body, jointed appendages, and their exoskeletons. Their segmented bodies consist of three parts: the head, the thorax, and the abdomen. There are 30 classes of insects, ranging from Coleoptera with 500,000 species, to Dermaptera, with 1,000 species. The order Orthoptera contains 30,000 species, some of which are crickets, katydids, cockroaches, and grasshoppers. This order is characterized by its members’ incomplete metamorphosis, two pairs of straight wings, and chewing mouthparts. Members of this order are known to damage crops, garden plants, and stored foods. The grasshopper, a member of Orthoptera, is a great example of the characteristics that define insects. The body of the grasshopper clearly exhibits the head, thorax, and abdomen. Grasshoppers have two sets of eyes—simple and compound. The thorax is separated into the prothorax which attaches the head and bears the first pair of legs, the mesothorax which has the forewings and the second pair of legs, and the metathorax which attaches to the abdomen and bears the hindwings and the large jumping legs. When the jumping legs are flexed, a springlike mechanism stores mechanical energy, which, when released, causes the grasshopper to launch into the air away from danger. These legs also have flexible joints that provide steering and spines that help cling to branches and blades of grass. The forewings protect the hindwings when not in flight. The forewings assist in flight by helping the insect glide, but the hindwings do the propulsion. Unlike the wings of birds and bats, the wings of insects did not evolve from legs. The abdomen has two layers that are connected by exoskeleton. Grasshoppers
develop by incomplete metamorphosis, meaning they have several larval stages that resemble the adult stage, however they cannot perform certain functions; in the grasshopper’s case, they cannot reproduce nor can they fly until they are fully grown. After insects hatch from an egg, they undergo numerous molts before reaching adult size and becoming sexually mature. Metamorphosis, incomplete and complete, is the developmental change in an insects form. Incomplete metamorphosis is when a nymph, an immature form of an insect, hatches from an egg and gradually develops into an adult. A nymph generally looks like an adult insect, but lacks development of the wings and reproductive organs and is much smaller. Before transforming into an adult after the final molt, a nymph must molt several times, getting bigger with each molt. Adult insects can reproduce and, in most species, fly; including the grasshopper, mayfly, dragonfly, and termite. The second type of metamorphosis, complete metamorphosis, includes butterflies, moths, and beetles, and only has two stages of development between the egg and the adult; appearing different than its adult form in the stages. Hatching from an egg, a worm-like larva (usually called a caterpillar) has three pairs of jointed legs on its thorax and several pairs of non-segmented legs on the abdomen. The larva grows bulky, almost relentlessly consuming milkweed leaves. The monarch larva molts numerous times as it grows and at its last stage it develops bands of yellow, white, and black along the body. The monarch larva continues to feed, however it finds a sheltered spot to hang upside down. The larva becomes shorter and thicker before the exoskeleton splits down the dorsal side and falls off, revealing a green pupa. A pupa is a stage of development in which an insect changes from a larva to an adult. The pupa of a butterfly encloses in a protective case called a chrysalis while a moth encloses in a cocoon. Inside
the pupa, larval tissues break down and groups of cells called imaginal disks start to develop into wings and other tissues of an adult. When the metamorphosis is complete, the larva molts into a mature, winged butterfly. Larval and adult stages often fulfill different functions, live in different habitats, and eat different foods therefore no competition for space or food will arise between the larva and adults. Metamorphosis enhances insect survival by helping insects survive harsh weather. Most butterflies and moths spend winters as pupa enclosed in chrysalises or cocoons which are often buried in the soil. Insects have many other defensive adaptations that increase chances for survival and provides passive defense. Frequently, insects using camouflage enhance their survival by making it difficult for predators to recognize an insect. Other forms of defense are when insects resemble parts of plants on which they feed or hunt for food and venomous stingers of female bees and wasps. Insects often have bright color patterns that make them clearly recognizable and warn predators away. This is known as warning coloration and mimicking this coloration of another dangerous insect is Batesian mimicry. Another characteristic of insects that assists in their success is their ability to communicate. Insects use pheromones, chemicals released that are interpreted by other insects, to communicate. Insects release pheromones to mark trails or find mates. Insects also communicate through making sound. The most common insect sound humans hear is the chirp of a cricket. These sounds are meant to attract females and ward off males. However, humans have learned how to use the number of chirps per minute to calculate the temperature in Fahrenheit. Mosquitoes also use sound to attract mates. Males fly directly towards the buzzing produced by females. Another method of communication
between insects for means of finding a mate is creating flashes of light. Male fireflies flash to females, who respond. Each species has its own code in order to insure that mates find the same species. Honey bees show many characteristics insects use to communicate. They are social insects, meaning they live in colonies. Because of the interdependence of the colony members, honey bees have unique ways of communication. There are three types of honeybees: worker bees, the queen bee, and drones. Workers are sterile females that do everything for and make up most of the colony. The queen bee is the only fertile female, and the only job she has is reproduction. The drones are males whose only job is to provide the queen with semen. Workers have the job of feeding and guarding the entire colony. In order to communicate when food is found, honeybees do a series of dances to tell other workers that the bee has found food. There are two different dances that are done by bees, the round dance and the waggle dance. Bees are said to be altruistic because in protecting the hive they take on the responsibility of putting down their own lives in order to keep the hive safe of intruders. As one can see, insects exhibit every characteristic of an arthropod and then some. Arthropods are invertebrates that have jointed limbs and a segmented body with an exoskeleton made of chitin. They have three layers, providing protection and support. These arthropod characteristics first appear in animals from over 600 million years ago. Biologists infer that arthropods have all evolved from a common ancestor because all arthropods have a true coelom, an exoskeleton, and jointed appendages. Various groups of arthropods living today have undergone similar changes during evolution. Unlike ancestral arthropods that had bodies consisting of many segments, most living species’
segments fuse into a number of larger structures called tagmata. Tagmata specialize in performing functions such as feeding, locomotion, and reproduction. Trilobita, crustacea, chelicerata, and unirama, are the four subphyla of arthropoda and have a basis on differences in development and in structure of mouthparts and other appendages. Entomologists classify insects into more that 30 orders based on characteristics such as the structure of mouthparts, number of wings, and type of development. Many adaptations of insects are characteristics that they share with other arthropods such as a segmented body, jointed appendages, and an exoskeleton. All of these characteristics show why the class insecta is the most successful of all arthropods.
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