Characteristics And Classification Of Insects

Many of the adaptations that have made insects successful are characteristics they share with other arthropods, such as a segmented body, jointed appendages, and an exoskeleton. Insects belong to the class Insecta in the subphylum Hexapoda (hek-SAP-uh-duh), which also includes three minor orders that are not considered true insects.

The body of an insect is divided into three tagmata: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Like myriapods, insects have mandibles and one pair of antennae on their head, and the antennae and other appendages are unbranched. The thorax has three pairs of jointed legs and, in many species, one or two pairs of wings. The abdomen is composed of 9 to 11 segments, and in adults it has neither wings nor legs.

Most insects are small. Among the smallest is a parasitic wasp, which is only 0.14 mm (0.005 in.) in length. Some insects are much larger. For example, the African Goliath beetle reaches 10 cm (4 in.) in length, and the atlas moth has a wingspan of more than 25 cm (10 in.). These two giants of the insect world are shown in Figure 37-1.

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