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Insects would be the size of hawks if dinosaurs hadn’t murdered them

Jun 6, 2012

Death and Taxes isn’t usually a hot spot for science coverage, but now and then we read something that freaks us out enough to post.

Today’s factoid: if it weren’t for dinosaurs evolving into ferocious prehistoric birds, insects might still be the size of hawks.

Horrifying, right? Like a non-stop real-life version of “The Fly” or “Mothra,” Ishiro Honda’s film in which a giant moth wreaks havoc on Tokyo. Hawk-sized mosquitos would be the absolute worst, ruining summer camp and barbecues forever and probably feasting on whole puppies just for fun.

According to LiveScience, in the Permian era (about 290 million to 250 million years ago), the higher levels of oxygen in the atmosphere allowed the insects to grow their flying muscles until they had 30-inch wingspans—about the same as a hawk.

Insects such as Griffinflies ruled the skies until about 150 million years ago when dinosaurs started evolving into birds, the first of which was the Archaeopteryx. Faster and more agile than these crazy, hawk-sized bugs, the new birds started eating them, as well as their food, which at that time was likely smaller insects.

The result: a major drop-off in giant insects, which we should all take a moment of silence to appreciate now, especially because it’s summer. Imagine what our bug tape would look like if we were trying to ensnare flies the size of babies. Gross.

Read the much more detailed, scientific story on Mother Nature Network.

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