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Author Topic:   The Decline of Insect Representation in Biology Textbooks Over Time
Posts: 3437
From: Oregon, USA
Joined: 08-27-2006
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Message 1 of 1 (845212)
12-13-2018 11:58 AM

The Decline of Insect Representation in Biology Textbooks Over Time

"Earth is creeping and crawling with bugs—up to 30 million species and 10 quintillion individual insects. Bugs outnumber all other species in the animal kingdom by orders of magnitude. So it would make sense that they have a starring role in science textbooks, teaching students essential lessons about biological processes and biodiversity. Except they don’t. A new study published in the journal American Entomologist has some sobering news about insects and intro-to-bio books: They simply aren’t represented. Despite the critical role the critters play in everything from the food chain to disease, they’re overshadowed by vertebrates, taking up less than 0.6 percent of introductory biology texts. And despite the sheer number of insects and their impact on Earth and its inhabitants, mentions of insects in introductory biology textbooks have dwindled over the last 100 years."

Taxonomic bias is the disparity between a taxon’s influence or biomass in nature and society’s interest in or understanding of that taxon. Insects are widely recognized as underrepresented in scientific research. The same bias occurs in introductory biology textbooks. Phillips and Landin (pers. comm.) found that vertebrates are pictured in more than 44% of images in animal diversity chapters, despite making up just 3–5% of animal species. Insects, on the other hand, make up 60–70% of animal species, yet are shown in less than 23% of images.

Insects are crucial components of virtually every ecosystem, and they provide a wide variety of “ecosystem services” such as pollination, decomposition, and predation of pests, as well as serving as primary consumers in food chains (Kellert 1993, Losey and Vaughan 2008, Samways 2015). An enormous diversity of extant flowering plants has coevolved with insects (Labandeira et al. 1994). Moreover, the high level of diversity among insects has resulted in all manner of physical and behavioral adaptations, allowing them to serve as inspiration for a wide variety of areas of study, including agriculture, architecture, biomimicry, drug discovery, forensics, polymer development, and psychology (Byrd and Castner 2009, Holbrook et al. 2010, Kellert 1993, Losey and Vaughan 2008, Samways 2015, Yi et al. 2014). Yet, most currently, commonly used textbooks in introductory biology do not give insects the attention warranted by their abundance and relevance to human life.

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