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insect

Introduction

insect, invertebrate animal of the class Insecta of the phylum Arthropoda. Like other arthropods, an insect has a hard outer covering, or exoskeleton, a segmented body, and jointed legs. Adult insects typically have wings and are the only flying invertebrates.

The body of the typical adult insect is divided into three distinct parts, the head, thorax, and abdomen. The head bears three pairs of mouthparts, one pair of compound eyes, three simple eyes (ocelli), and one pair of jointed sensory antennae. The thorax is divided into three segments, each with a pair of jointed legs, and bears two pairs of wings. The abdomen has posterior appendages associated with reproduction. The exoskeleton is composed of a horny substance called chitin.

Insects breathe through a complex network of air tubes (tracheae) that open to the outside through a series of small valved apertures (spiracles) along the sides of the body. In chewing insects the digestive system includes a muscular gizzard that is lacking in sucking insects. The simple circulatory system is composed of a tubular heart that pumps blood forward into the head, from which it diffuses through the tissues and back into the heart. The aquatic larvae of many insects breathe by means of external gills; some very primitive species breathe directly through the body wall.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Zoology: Invertebrates


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