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Old 02 October 2013, 06:08 PM
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Glasses Jonas Salk on insects

Comment: This has been making the rounds of Facebook
and Twitter lately:

“If all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth
would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years
all forms of life would flourish.” -- Jonas Salk, biologist

http://sphotos-a.ak.fbcdn.net/hphoto...18706182_n.jpg

I'm guessing that Jonas Salk never said this, since I've never seen a
source for this quote. It seems to have first appeared on the internet in
2006, eleven years after Dr. Salk passed away.

On top of that, I'm guessing that it isn't true, since life on Earth
pre-dates the insects by at least 3 billion years. No doubt life would be
disrupted by the sudden disappearance of insects, but evolutionary history
suggests that life (and hopefully humanity) would adapt and recover.
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Old 02 October 2013, 06:23 PM
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Since insects are much of the base of the food chain for macro-life, it is likely that loss of insects would result in a great loss of plants (which use the insects for pollination, as well as would become a secondary food of choice when animals no longer had bugs to eat) and animals (most of which are dependent either on the plants or smaller animals that eat insects or eat animals that eat insects, etc). However, microorganisms would probably go right on living much as they have for millennia.
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Old 02 October 2013, 06:31 PM
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A Turtle Named Mack A Turtle Named Mack is offline
 
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In addition there are a lot of plants that self-pollinate, wind pollinate, or have non-insect pollinators. The non-insect pollinators are usually bribed by the plants with nectar or other food treat, so those animals would go on. Wind pollinators include grasses and, IIRC, gymnosperms. There are a lot of angiosperm trees actually that wind-pollinate, like oaks and hickories. And those would feed the seed eaters. Then there are the plants who spread by runners, corms, etc. without seeds even being needed. Loss of all insects would cause a huge disruption, and many beloved plant and animal species would disappear, but it would be nowhere near as dire as the quote says. And while i do not know of Salk as being an expert on ecology or related discipline, there is no reason to think he was ignorant enough of such matters to say this.
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Old 02 October 2013, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by A Turtle Named Mack View Post
The non-insect pollinators are usually bribed by the plants with nectar or other food treat, so those animals would go on.
Not unless those animals feed exclusively on those plants, and maybe not even then.
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Old 02 October 2013, 07:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by snopes View Post
Not unless those animals feed exclusively on those plants, and maybe not even then.
We would need to look at specific cases to compare really. It seems to me that most prominent pollinators get most of their sustenance from pollen, nectar, or whatever else might be offered in the pollination process. E.g., nectar-eaters like hummingbirds do not generally eat nuts much. Some might supplement with insects though (I am not sure in the case of hummingbirds). Then there are heat-pollinators - insects in the arctic who warm themselves in the sunlight reflected and concentrated by the shape of flowers of certain plants; of course, those are insects and would be gone under our scenario anyway, but it is an example of a pollinator which does not get a food reward for its efforts, but eats off something else.
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Old 02 October 2013, 07:37 PM
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If humans vanished tomorrow a couple zillion other life forms would also vanish, namely all the bacteria that are specific to humans.
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Old 03 October 2013, 07:17 PM
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The oceans flourish with life, and there are no insects there. The niche they would fill is already occupied by other arthropods.

Loss of all the insects would be terribly disruptive for land life, though.
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