Let's say that in a different timeline, humans evolved to eat insects. How would that change the world today Note: Suppose that this didn't have any mass changes on our anatomy and that our species continued to develop technology.

Edit: Now that I think about it, suppose that humans were herbivores and insectivores. The only thing that's different from us is that they don't eat meat from large animals.

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    $\begingroup$ We wouldn't be at the top of the food chain, and humans wouldn't have had to follow large migrating animals like bison. Without the need to move around, humans might not ever have developed technology in the first place because their anatomy would have required then to sick to one niche. $\endgroup$
    – John Locke
    Aug 27 '18 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have any real life example of an herbivore/insectivore? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Aug 27 '18 at 11:46
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    $\begingroup$ Humans are already insectivores - you can eat all the crickets if you wish today. You can make flour from dried, ground mealworms. Chocolate coated ants are sold by many vendors. Food preferences tend to be cultural. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Aug 27 '18 at 13:56
  • $\begingroup$ Things like roach infestation would be viewed quite differently. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Aug 27 '18 at 16:18
  • $\begingroup$ considering there are no apes that don't eat meat it is unlikely. The real question is why they wouldn't eat meat, they would be perfectly capable of digesting it. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 28 '18 at 14:44

Human anatomy would look different.

We would have slightly different teeth and our mouths would probably be smaller. The big intestine would be shorter and the appendix would probably not exist anymore.

More notably would be the legs. Humans evolved to have strong legs and a big Gluteus Maximus to enable upright running over long distances. This was nesseccary to hunt big herbivores over long distances. Our hairless skin is also an adaptation to running for a long time.

Apart from that, if we never domesticated big herbivores to provide food, we would have bred insects to provide food. The number of domesticated animals might be smaller, but the size of insects bred as food source would be bigger.

The first important civilizations would probably have arisen in places with many naturally occuring insects like the tropics and sub tropics. On the other hand, arctic and sub arctic regions like the north of Canada, Greenland and Scandinavia would be populated very scarcely or not at all.

There's a theory that the origins of civilizations are people gathered around a fire, waiting for the food to cook. Insects don't need to be hunted and shared among the group, so there might be no civilization at all.

Religions and Gods would probably look different, too. Many ancient gods have the faces or bodies of important domesticated animals, most prominently cows. The only insect god I know of is an egyption one.

Our wildlife would be much changed. European sailors released rats (unintentionally), pigs and rabbits (both intentionally) to any island they found to provide food to shipwrecked sailors. These caused the extinction of many endemic species. Some animals like the Dodo and Moa bird went extinct because of the unending hunger of men. Insectivore humans would have introduced insects into foreign islands and continents instead, maybe with less consequences than mammals, maybe with unforseeable ill effects.


A great deal of the reason we banded together to make villages was to protect our vulnerable farms. Our mythology would revolve more around insectoid livestock gods than gods of weather or fertility in your world.

Feeding an entire village with just insects would necessitate a good variety of bugs, and proper conditions for all of those bugs to live and breed in. Large scale bug-farming would be more space efficient but potentially more difficult and specialized. Also consider that in the west insect are symbols of plague and illness because they tainted good crops, but in your world that symbolism would likely be replaced by fungus, since parasitic fungi can wreak havoc on insect populations, and other insectivores like birds would be seen as threats to our livelihood the way foxes are to chicken farmers. If your people are also herbivores then they may use their silos or sacrifice portions of their crops to catch insects to broaden their diet.

Large animals that we bred to be eaten, such as cows, would not exist as a domestic breed, but would be replaced by certain types of large, stupid bugs that are easy to farm and reliant on humans. Sheep would still exist for clothing purposes but livestock-breeds would not, and therefore sheep farming wouldn't be as lucrative or common. Consider other symbols used in farming that are easily recognizable in our world, like shepard's crooks and cattle brands, what is your world's equivalent? Would cowboys have ever existed if their were no large cattle to herd and protect from thieves?

  • $\begingroup$ Sheep wool would likely be more of a somewhat exotic niche product like silk is to us, vice versa. $\endgroup$ Aug 27 '18 at 14:35

Chimpanzee, our close cousins, are reported to eat insects and use tools to do it.

One example of chimpanzee tool usage behavior includes the use of a large stick as a tool to dig into termite mounds, and the subsequent use of a small stick altered into a tool that is used to "fish" the termites out of the mound.

We also can eat insects (and we do).

Moreover, since you describe an herbivore/insectivore, I think you are actually describing an omnivore, like we are. Specialized insectivores, like the anteaters, lack the anatomical capability of eating vegetables. And if an animal has the capability of digesting an insect it's no big deal digesting other types of flesh.

All in all, I think there might be no big difference between us and your hypothetical humanoids.


Meat-eating is possibly the largest single defining factor which lead to the creation of the modern human brain. Gorillas spend most of their daylight hours foraging (and not eating cooked, easier-to-digest meat) and still can not consume enough calories to sustain their body mass and a human-style brain.

Strictly speaking of calories (and ignoring many other aspects of a properly balanced diet, which includes meat-eating but NOT insects-only), insects average around 120 calories per 100g, at best. Beef, and other red meats, are around 250 calories per 100g. Eating 100g of scavenged carcass on the savanna would be considerably less energy intensive than finding and eating the ~160 crickets. And then doing it all over again 8 times.

So basically humans would not have evolved brains complex enough to be considered humans without either some serious changes to the availability of insects in the planet's history or massive changes to their size (and still, likely not considered humans then).


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