reminder what an “animal” is


Not only do I run into people who think insects and other arthropods don’t qualify as animals, I run into people who know that they’re “technically” animals but they’re of the “opinion” they shouldn’t be.

What are people actually judging by here, though? Intelligence? Because there are definitely vertebrates like us with barely more brainpower than a cockroach, and then there are invertebrates like octopuses, as genetically distant from us as a cockroach but intelligent enough to learn people’s faces and solve puzzles. Are they going by anatomy? That an arthropod is supposedly just “too different” physically to be lumped with us as animals?

Let me show those folks something:


Here’s the animal kingdom. The giant pale blue is all the arthropods, the insects and spiders and crabs and things.

The pale green sliver is the chordata, which contains just three groups. One of those three groups is the vertebrata, literally every single animal with a skeleton: humans, horses, eels, owls, snakes, frogs, all the things people apparently think are “real” animals.

One of the other three types of chordata, your closest possible cousins, are these things, the lancelets:


Just like you, they have a notochord, which during embryonic development becomes your spinal column.

The third kind of chordate, and actually even closer to you genetically than a lancelet, is a tunicate, and here’s an example of one kind of tunicate:


This is a colony of several thousand little bags with mouths and anuses and virtually no other organs. As larvae, they resemble tadpoles and also have a notochord like you once did in the womb, but then they absorb it as they mature. These are our nearest cousins on the planet.


Now unlike the mature tunicate, an insect is a creature with a clearly defined head, jaws, legs, feet, eyes, a complete brain, practically anthropomorphic compared to those bags of filter-feeding jelly, yet it’s the bags of filter feeding jelly that share an immediate ancestor with you. If “bugs” are too weird to be animals then what the hell are we?

Basically if you’re going to say an insect shouldn’t be considered an animal, you may as well say a cactus shouldn’t be considered a plant because it looks funny.