Is the Smallest Multicelled Organism an Insect?

Written by Nancy Miorelli

Well, in short. No. It’s actually a microscopic, parasitic zooplankton that attaches itself to the outside of other zooplankton.

Stygotantulus stocki is the smallest recorded animal

Stygotantulus stocki is the smallest recorded animal.

Meet the crustacean Stygotantulus stocki, which measures in at just under 0.1mm (94µm).
What does that mean for scale? Well, an average human hair is about 75µm thick, so it’s slightly fatter than that.

But what is the smallest insect? That award (currently) goes to the male Dicopomorpha echmepterygis  fairyfly (Mymaridae) [which is actually a wasp, not a fly]. This species lays its eggs in bark louse eggs [Psocoptera] and is only slightly bigger than S. stocki, measuring 0.139mm (139µm).

So this little critter is smaller than two human hairs put together.

The wingless male Dicopomorpha echmepterygis. The smallest known insect (Huber et al. 2013).

Interestingly, while the male Dicopomorpha echmepterygis is wingless, most fairyflies are so small (0.5-1.0mm) that they have little feathery structures for wings that help them float on air currents.

The fairyfly floats on air currents with its little feathery wings.

The fairyfly floats on air currents with its little feathery wings.

References:

1.) Morris S.C. (2006). A X , P. 2000. Multicellular Animals, Volume II. The Phylogenetic System of the Metazoa . xxiv 396 pp. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag. Price Euros 229.00 ( VAT at local rate), SFr 387.50, £176.00, US $241.00 (hard covers). ISBN 3 540 67496 3 A X , P. 2003. Multicellular Animals, Volume III. Order in Nature – System Made by Man . xii 317 pp. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag. Price Euros 179.95 ( VAT at local rate), SFr 304.50, £138.50, US $199.00 (hard covers). ISBN 3 540 00146 8, Geological Magazine, 143 (01) 141. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/s0016756806271942

2.) Mockford E. (1997). A new species of Dicopomorpha (Hymenoptera: Mymaridae) with diminutive, apterous males., Ann. Ent. Soc. America, (90) 115-120. DOI:

About SciBugs

Entomologist, Science Communicator, and Crafter Twitter: @SciBugs
This entry was posted in Developmental Biology, Ecology, Evolution, Physiology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Is the Smallest Multicelled Organism an Insect?

  1. Pingback: Why do entomologists kill insects? A non-taxonomist’s perspective. | Ask an Entomologist

Discuss with Us

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s