Coming across a specific worm, we have all called them an insect at least once in our life.
This assumption is very typical as these two animals look very similar in size, and they can be found in the same kind of places. But often, it hits us that, in reality, is a worm an insect?
The search for an answer to this question is exceptionally normal. That’s why we have tried our best to clear out this universal confusion in as many simple words as we can.
Read more below to find out whether worms can actually fall under the umbrella of insects!
What Are Insects?
There’s probably nobody on planet earth who hasn’t seen an insect in their life. Insects are everywhere! Starting from Mosquitoes, Bees, Butterflies, and Crickets, these are insects, and they are all around us. You can almost call them a part of our life.
But if you were to define an insect scientifically, how would you? Even though we all know what insects look like, most of us don’t know how they are structured or classify insects as insects. To know that, we have to take a small dive into the vast world of zoology.
The Animal kingdom is divided into several phyla. While we humans belong to the world of vertebrates, insects belong to a phylum called Arthropoda.
The simple definition of an arthropod is that they have an exoskeleton, a segmented body, and joint legs. They could have wings as well.
Insects also have complete symmetry in their body which would make them look identical if divided in half.
Furthermore, they have a very developed physical structure if compared to more minor phyla. In the upper section of their body, they have a head that has eyes, mouth, and, a lot of the time, antennae.
They mostly have six legs in pair of two in body part called the thorax. Moreover, insects also have the central body part like developed animals that has several organ systems.
These systems help run the digestion, reproduction, and excretion functions of insects. More or less, we can understand that insects are pretty advanced in the animal world compared to a few phyla.
You can find insects everywhere. Some live in the ocean, some inland, while some up above in plants.
They play a crucial role in our environment by helping the microorganisms decompose the soil or help plants in pollination. The part insects play in ecology is exceptionally vast, and words would fall short of describing them.
Some common examples of insects are Crickets, Ants, Lice, Mayflies, Wasps, Cockroaches, etc. Lastly, do you know how insects can see, smell, or sense things? It’s because they have a brain!
What Are Worms?
I’m sure you all have seen long insect-like species that usually move around by crawling. Those are all worms. Though it might feel like there are not many differences between an insect or a worm, these two animals vary a lot in reality!
Worms are invertebrate animals that have elongated, limbless bodies. They move around by creeping or crawling and are generally less than 1 cm long.
Worms have a soft, slimy body with only a mouth, anus, and gut line. Can you believe it that worms have no organs, eyes, or brain? They don’t have any legs either.
In addition, worms belong to several phyla instead of one. They can be from Annelida, Platyhelminthes, Nematoda, Nemertea, and much more.
Worms from each phylum have different names. For example, the worms belonging to Annelida are called Segmented Worms or Earthworms. Worms that belong to Nematoda are called Roundworms.
Each kind of worm has different specifications that help them survive. For example, the body cavity of flatworms helps them eat and release waste.
In contrast, roundworms have both a mouth and anus that help them execute this function. Segmented worms have their body divided into segments, where each segment contains the same set of organs.
Different species of worms live in different environments. Earthworms are most commonly found under the soil. They are also widespread in marine areas.
On the other hand, some worms like roundworms or tapeworms live as parasites in other animals- causing them harm and good.
An interesting thing about worms- they can be asexual organisms. That means that they can reproduce on their own and do not need the help of other worms.
Some common examples of asexual worms are Planarians, Polychaetas, etc. Meanwhile, species like earthworms reproduce sexually.
What Sets Apart Worms From Being An Insect?
Whenever we see tiny organisms on the ground/or flying, we thoughtlessly assume it to be an insect. Everything small is an insect, huh!
Don’t worry yourself thinking you’re the only one with this misassumption; many people, including me, have been thinking the same!
Therefore, if the answer isn’t clear by now, worms are very different from insects.
They have distinct variations in their organs, physical structure, functions, way of life, reproducing, and so much more. Worms are a completely different group of animals from insects.
Let’s check out some of the differences below!
Once you know worms and insects, you can tell the difference between them just by looking.
Even though both might be small in size, worms look different than insects. While insects share a variety of looks (a butterfly and a bee don’t look similar, do they?), worms pretty much have a general physical structure.
Worms have elongated, smooth bodies with no complexities in them. They barely have any separate parts in their body and consist of a long structure with openings at both ends.
Due to covering such an extensive range of phyla, species of worms might look different in color or length, though, but that’s about it.
On the other hand, insects have a specific structure that they maintain. They all have a head, body, and six legs. Their physique is divided into several parts from the exterior, unlike worms.
For example, a cockroach has wings, a body, legs, etc. Whereas a worm has only that one long segment it lives on.
As we mentioned before, insects also share a variety of looks. A ladybird has a beauty that is different from a butterfly. Whenever you see two species of insects, you’ll be able to tell them apart.
If you have studied basic biology, you will know that the animal kingdom is divided into several subdivisions called phyla.
Each phylum has more divisions, but we will not be required to go that deep. We need to know that the phylum Chordata consists of all vertebrates like us humans, tigers, cats, etc.
On the other hand, the rest of the phyla are called invertebrates. Now both worms and insects are invertebrates.
But insects are part of a more advanced phylum called Arthropoda, while worms belong to several less advanced phyla. We need to understand that what sets worms apart from insects is mainly this differentiation in phyla.
Animals from the same phylum share the same physical structure and functions, making it easy to identify them.
For example, animals from Arthropoda have jointed legs, whereas animals from Nematoda don’t. These superficial differences in functions and structure set each phylum apart as it does for worms and insects.
Almost all insects lay eggs. They go through internal fertilization by laying the sperm of male insects inside the female insect’s ovary, where the egg is produced. That is why you might see eggs of insects often.
However, insects like aphids go through asexual reproduction, and an offspring turns out to be very similar to a single parent.
Worms, on the other hand, differ in reproduction ways depending on their species. Some have asexual reproduction, while some have sexual.
Many worms like earthworms are hermaphrodites- meaning they have both female and male reproductive organs.
The differences between worms and insects can vary in many other cases. They belong to entirely different groups of animals and hence share altogether different characteristics.
However, the main thing is: while worms share a much larger and generalized spectrum, insects can be narrowed down to specific features.
Therefore, ‘worms’ is a broader term than ‘insects,’ and they are highly different from each other.
Often, going in the wild, we come across worms that we become curious about. It is normal to assume that they fall under insects since worms and insects inhabit the same place. But many times, our intense curiosity leads us to know more about them.
We try to be more transparent on the studies of worms and doubt if worms are insects. Hence, the question “Is a worm an insect?” is more common than you can expect.
Our sheer curiosity can lead us to a wide range of study and all in all, gaining knowledge is always a benefit.
Therefore, we genuinely hope this article could help you clear your confusion about worms and insects! We hope you could learn something new in the process.
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