Give me control of the planetary oxygen supply, and I'll grow bugs in any size you want.

A higher concentration of oxygen in the atmosphere let dragonflies sometimes grow to the size of hawks, and some millipede-like bugs reached some six feet in length. Now that the proportion of oxygen has decreased, however, bugs can't grow much larger than they do now, the authors write.


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19 Responses:

  1. revsphynx says:

    So, does this mean if I pump more oxygen into my Madagascar Hissing Cockroach tank for a few generations, I'd have cat-sized roaches?

    Upon saying that idea out loud, my wife advised that I watch the outcome of several mutant animal movies. But my argument is, "What could possibly go wrong?"

    Now if I could just make them smarter so I could train them to do tricks...

    • cavorite says:

      Seriously, this would be cool to do in a controlled lab, just see how big you can grow insects, since say, 10 years would give you a *lot* of generations of most insects.

      • strangehours says:

        You'd have to provide some selective advantage to being larger, though. Say, for example, squishing the small ones before they bred. Probably better to do it with something other than a cockroach, in that case.

        It seems like there's some understanding of the genetic determinants of size in drosophila. It might also be possible to give nature a helping hand...

        "Loss of PTEN in the entire head of Drosophila creates fies with giant heads relative to their normal bodies, which demonstrates that PTEN normally regulates organ size in a negative fashion (S. Oldham and E. Hafen, unpublished data)."

      • pozorvlak says:

        Can I suggest you use a very strong controlled lab?

  2. jcheshire says:

    Hmm... This sounds familiar.


    Ah, yes! It was a plot point in the second episode of Primeval. "Anomalies" crop up all over England that result in doorways to the past. In this particular episode, an anomaly opened to the (ambiguously named) Upper Carboniferous period resulting in large insects hanging out in the London Underground. The high oxygen content seeping through the anomaly was resulting in strange behavior from the guns our intrepid heroes were using.

    • wikkit42 says:

      Ah, it was doing so well until you said that he guns acted differently. I'm somehow guessing that by "acted differently" you don't mean that traveled very slightly differently because of the change in speed of sound, which would be the only change.

  3. decibel45 says:

    Yeah, until they grow lungs...

  4. tkil says:

    I wonder if one of these articles triggered the other, but The Straight Dope recently did a Staff Report on whether giant bugs are possible.

    Probably the same content, but in the charming SD tone.

    (If you really want giant insects, just move to D.C.
    ... Thanks, I'll be here all week.)

  5. wikkit42 says:

    If there were six foot long millipedes at 31 to 35% oxygen, how big would they get at 50%? They only tested fruit flies; no creativity.

  6. xthread says:

    Umm, wasn't this known atmospheric biology already?

  7. 1423 says:

    Ever been bitten by a mosquito the size of a vampire bat? If environmental campaigners get their way, that idea might not sound so far-fetched. The Kyoto protocol is not just bad for American industry, it's good for cockroaches - cockroaches the size of pitbull terriers. And thanks to the gun control lobby, you'll be helpless to defend your family when the killer roaches come knocking.

    Remember: Kyoto is a Bill of Rights for giant bugs.