Why Do Some Animals Get Gigantic? | Summary and Q&A

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November 24, 2017
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MinuteEarth
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Why Do Some Animals Get Gigantic?

TL;DR

Animals can grow to enormous sizes due to changes in atmospheric oxygen levels, evolutionary breakthroughs like air sacs in dinosaurs, or adaptations to aquatic environments.

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Key Insights

  • 👻 Atmospheric oxygen levels can influence the growth of animals, allowing them to become larger.
  • 👮 The square-cube law imposes limitations on the size of animals, but evolutionary breakthroughs can overcome these limitations.
  • 💗 Adaptations to aquatic environments, along with the retention of lungs, enable land animals to grow larger than fish.

Transcript

Hi, this is Kate from MinuteEarth. Animals come in all different sizes, but usually, over evolutionary time, each type of animal stays roughly the same size. Every once in awhile, though, something crazy happens that allows an animal to get truly gigantic. Take insects and other arthropods, which have tiny bodies in part because they breathe by spo... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How did the spike in atmospheric oxygen levels around 300 million years ago contribute to the growth of mega-bugs?

The spike in oxygen levels allowed arthropods and insects to grow larger because their tiny bodies could receive enough oxygen to support a larger size.

Q: How did dinosaurs overcome the square-cube problem to grow larger?

Dinosaurs developed a system of air pockets and air sacs in their skeletons, which made their bodies lighter and allowed them to grow bigger without becoming too heavy.

Q: How did land animals adapt to overcome the square-cube problem and grow larger than fish?

Land animals evolved to live in aquatic environments, which buoyed their weight and allowed them to grow almost twice as big as the largest fish. They also retained their lungs, enabling them to breathe oxygen-rich air.

Q: What caused blue whales to become the largest animals ever lived?

Changing ocean currents brought nutrients up from the depths, leading to phytoplankton blooms. These attracted zooplankton, providing a rich food source that allowed blue whales to grow three times their size.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Animals like insects and arthropods were able to grow larger due to a spike in atmospheric oxygen levels around 300 million years ago.

  • Dinosaurs found an evolutionary breakthrough with air pockets and air sacs in their skeletons, allowing them to grow bigger without getting heavier.

  • Land animals adapted to aquatic environments to overcome the square-cube problem, allowing them to grow almost twice as big as the largest fish.

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