The World's Heaviest Insect Is 3,500 Times More Massive Than the Smallest Vertebrate

By Veronique Greenwood | February 1, 2012 9:36 am

Record-breaking critters are always crawling, hopping, swimming or otherwise locomoting across our radar. To indulge our curiosity about two creatures who showed up recently in the news, we did a little quick and dirty Photoshopping. If you put the world’s heaviest insect—the giant weta, one of which was recently observed enjoying a carrot on a researcher’s palm—next to the world’s smallest vertebrate—a newly discovered frog so tiny it’s dwarfed by a dime—it might look something like this:

spacing is important

That’s the frog, off to the right. It weighs just 0.02 grams. This weta tipped the scales at 71 grams, according to Mark Moffett, the scientist who snapped her picture. So the cricket-like weta is about 3,500 times the weight of the frog, which Christopher Austin and colleagues found by scooping up leaf litter that was making a funny chirping noise and painstakingly removing the leaf fragments until they found a scrap that hopped.

Wetas can reach 10 centimeters in body length, 20 with their legs extended. The frog is about 7 millimeters long, so it would take around 30 of the frogs lined up head to tail to extend the length of the weta. For your viewing pleasure, here’s the frog on a dime, magnified:

frog

Images (c) Mark Moffett / Minden and courtesy of PLoS One

  • Precursor

    All the strange strange creatures … 

    • Jonny

       …is what she said after stepping inside the computer lab.

  • Mud

    Is that the bug that starred in the first MIB movie? 

  • Sapphyre

    Awww I love fwogs!

  • H Davis79

    How about prehistoric insects.  I’m sure some were much much bigger.

    • Tony Mach

      I doubt it. There is a size limit to insects AFAIK, they are limited by their tracheal system (“decentralized” breathing), their circulatory system (no heart) and their exoskeleton. I would imagine this beast is close to that limit.

      • Anonymous

        It may depend on the oxygen content and air density, but the research is still being conducted.  The prehistoric atmosphere may have allowed insects to surpass that limit. There are prehistoric dragonflies that had a wing span of 2.5 ft: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meganeura

      • Relicaxe

        Actually, 300 million years ago insects could grow quite large. Some up to 5 feet (millipedes for example) because the atmosphere contained a much higher percentage of oxygen. For modern day though I would agree that this insect is probably reaching the size cap.

        • Gee Aye

          Yes but what about insects?

        • Zooman

          Last I heard, millipedes are NOT insects.

  • Donna Hamilton

    Well it’s not the heaviest one found, but it’s still awesome!!
    Check out this video of hunting the tree/bush weta
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC3kRsYqDxY

  • Max Blake

    It’s not the World’s Largest Insect! The larvae of many species of beetle get much heavier than this, weighing over 100g. Dynastes hercules and D. neptunus get around 150g, four species of Goliath beetle larvae, Goliathus, get over 100g, and some of the largest elephant beetles, Megasoma, get over 200g. Some beetles like titan beetles, Titanus, probably get as heavy as this, possibly heavier. Because the larval biology of many beetles is so poorly known, there are probably even heavier species. I think the current record is for a Megasoma acteon which weighed 228g, over three times heavier than the weta. 

    • Gee Aye

      This is a comparison of like with like so your larval example is not relevant. I mean how silly would it be to have then compared the vertebrate equivelant of larva?

      • Max Blake

        It never says it’s a comparison of like for like. It’s a very vertebrate-centric view of the world to promote an idea that a larvae as just some insignificant stage in the life cycle of an animal. Over 800,000 species of described animal, around 2/3rds of all described animals have this life cycle with a massive feeding larvae. I agree that it is stupid to compare it to a vertebrate larvae, but just concentrating on large adults is, as I say, a very vertebrate-centric view of animals.
        Just looking at the ‘maximum weight an animal reaches in its life cycle’ should be synonymous with the ‘heaviest animal’. 

  • DylanTK

    I simply cannot determine which beastie is cuter.

  • Zooman

    The cricket is full of eggs.  I wonder if they are fertile.

  • Rolf Worth

    These insects are getting huge because of Global Warming. It is the end of the world.

    • mickey

      lmfao thanks – i needed that laugh this morning…

  • Guest

    That is one big-a** grasshopper …..

  • Art

    This giant cricket is what Weta Studios in New Zealand is named after: the people who design the fantastic creatures for films such as the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy !

  • Ava

    How beautiful they both are!

  • Gordon Haas

    Now compare that with the colossal squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, the largest known invertebrate, which weighs in at as much as 495 kg., which is more than 6,970 times the weight of the Giant Weta, and more than 24,750,000 times the weight of the frog.

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