So I'm looking to make an insect-like organism for my book, and I was wondering what I need to think about to make it feasable, given these conditions:

-These insectoids are approximately 2 meters in height

-They have a standing stature

-They have lungs or similar breathing organs so oxygen is not an issue

-To accomodate for lungs, the armor is split into small plates that don't flex when the lungs expand

-Otherwise the insectoids have a covering exoskeleton just like insects do

Now I have a number of questions regarding this creature

-Would this be possible, and what other accomodations would I need to make to make it more efficient?

-How fast would it move, and what animals could it reasonably hunt given its speed?

Edit: Internal organs can all be modified as its only the look of an insect I'm really looking for

  • $\begingroup$ Would the creature also have hemoglobin to carry oxygen through the body? I would think this would require the creature to have a more specialised heart as well. $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 21:50
  • $\begingroup$ Well, it would have some kind of same-functioning protein, as its supposed to be an alien organism, is there a special feature of hemoglobin that requires a specialized heart, or just transport proteins in general? $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ the reason why I think a more specialised heart would be necessary is because I believe a creature of that size would need the blood stream to be strong and quick enough to keep the extremities oxyginated. As for a "same functioning protein", maybe considder something like the hemocyanin of the horseshoe crab. $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 22:12
  • $\begingroup$ In that case, yes I suppose it would, maybe several hearts? Hemocyanin would also explain its color scheme so that sounds very fitting, thanks for the suggestion! $\endgroup$ Jul 1, 2016 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ Did you mean to use bullet lists? You're missing a space after the dash. See what the toolbar inserts for you. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jul 2, 2016 at 5:39

2 Answers 2


I'm no biology expert but I'm pretty sure the answer is no. I have several reasons for this conclusion...

-The square cube law. You cannot just inflate the size of anything that dramatically. The insects would need much stouter build and probably a few other adjustments. (not a biologist, remember?)

-interKINGDOM organ transplants. It's already really tricky transplanting a pigs heart into a human. (impossibly tricky) Those two are at least both mammals. Insect-human lung transplants on the other hand... Well, that's a whole other kingdom. In other words... Changing lungs is too complicated the way you have specified.

Did I say several? I only have two reasons. Both of which can probably be remedied.

Instead of starting with a tiny insect and turning it into an oversized humanoidish creature try it the other way. Start off with a humanoid, make him taller, broader, add on an extra leg or two, and add on an exoskeleton. This will deal with the lung problem as it will basically be a human body inside a insects exoskeleton. To deal with the square cube law I suggest you reinforce the legs and joints. That was my titanium suggestion.

Most of the above it's probably false, but I hope this helps.

  • $\begingroup$ Oh BTW, welcome to world building SE. It's a cool idea. And I just realized that it you really want to keep that long spindly look you could probably just make its exoskeleton out of titanium or something crazy like that. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 5:34
  • $\begingroup$ What do organ transplants have to do with it? $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    Jul 2, 2016 at 5:43
  • $\begingroup$ @JDlugosz should've specified... I meant that you can't just swap one organ system for another. I'll edit out in later. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 6:21
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    $\begingroup$ Well, it would have all the complimentary organs and pipes to accommodate the lungs, like a heart(or several) and whatnot. At this point I suppose it's not really an insectoid other than aesthetically, but that's fine really, I just need the look. And as for the square cube law, could I reinforce the legs or is it not a weight issue? $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 12:16
  • $\begingroup$ @AborianSerpent That is what I meant by my titanium comment. I realize now that a titanium/lightweight strong metal endoskeleton+exoskeleton might be better. But I'm pretty sure that's how the square cube law works. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 15:47

As Aarthew III said at this point it would probably be more efficient to take a human/whatever else you want it to look like and "upgrade" it with an exoskeleton.

Given the size of the organism I doubt the exoskeleton will be sufficient, it would probably need an internal skeleton as well.

To avoid problems with size-changing organs it could have an internal buffer, the lungs expand into pockets of gas inside the body so that the exoskeleton need not move/deform. The displaced gas could compress or move to another part of the body that acts like a balloon (this would be the only part that would have to be exposed) or, if it is air, could simply be connected with the outside. In this latter case the exoskeleton would simply have the same size of the lungs (or other organ) at their biggest and an opening for the air to stream in and out.

edit: Another solution to the lung problem is having 2 lungs, one expands when the other retracts, the total volume of both lungs never changes. This would mean that the organism would need 2 mouths/noses though, otherwise it would breathe in the same air that it breathes out, which is already partly deprived of oxygen.

Keep in mind that such an exoskeleton (especially if designed to protect) would be very heavy, the resulting organism would need to be very massive compared to their prey/predators to be able to support it or have some other means to compensate (like some form of antigravity device incorporated in their skeleton. I once read a book in which there were stones which would grow like plants that produce a force opposing gravity, if the insectoid absorbs and incorporates tiny pebbles of a material like this into its shell it could support it with much less required strength).

Given the weigth of the exoskeleton such an organism wouldn't move very quickly, instead depending on size and brute force to take out their prey.

What their prey is depends on their size and other peculiar organisms that might live there.

A shell like that would be effective as protection against projectile weapons, if a creature that shoots projectiles exists that could be a potential prey. Optimally that would be a stationary plant that defends itself by shooting thorns (venomous ones, perhaps), allowing the insectoid to approach it under its protective shell.

The shell is also a good defense against insects that sting, if there is an area with an abundance of dangerous wasp-like insects (or anything else that sucks blood, deposits larvae in living tissue or attacks other animals for any reason, not necessarily one that exists in our universe) this could be one of the few animals that thrives there, but only if the holes in the shell (for breathing, eating and exchange of gas as described above) are smaller than the insects and/or can be closed.

edit: If no system to alleviate the shell can be introduced it will have to remain comparatively thin, which is fine if it exists for purely aesthetic purposes, but may not if it has a defensive purpose. If the shell is supposed to protect against predators as large as or larger than the insectoid it will be too heavy. Any predators deterred by the shell would have to be smaller than the insectoid (Half? Two thirds? Something like that), or perhaps weakened for other reasons (maybe the insectoid lives in an environment that's poisonous to the predators so they arrive already weakened). This is not an issue if the shell only needs to protect against insects as detailed in the later parts of my answer, as these can be defended against with a small shell, perhaps the internal skeleton could be hollowed out (like birds') since the exoskeleton already absorbs parts of the hits, to compensate for the weight of the shell.

  • $\begingroup$ Wow, well thought out and written. You bring up several good points. +1 $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 17:18
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    $\begingroup$ @AarthewIII thanks :) I just hope it's understandable. I had a bit of trouble translating images into words in a way that is not misunderstandable... I don't know if stackexchange has a feature like that, but the author (or anyone, really) is welcome to message me, should that be possible, to ask for clarifications or to extend the question. $\endgroup$
    – Annonymus
    Jul 2, 2016 at 18:05
  • $\begingroup$ I think it was pretty clear. At least out was clearer than mine. $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ It would indeed be very heavy, say, is there some lightweight yet fairly durable material that could alleviate the heaviness somewhat? As for the lungs I think your suggestion would be a good way to go about it. Could it have more hollowed out parts with gas bags that help it alleviate the weight of its shell, would that work? $\endgroup$ Jul 2, 2016 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ @AarthewIII I did my best :P But the real problem is not where it could be unclear but rather where it could appear clear to the reader with a different meaning thatn what the writer (me) intended. For example, the air pockets around lungs. There are two ways to interpret what I wrote, either the shell detaches from the skin like a gown, leaving "empty" space beneath it, or there is another "organ", a sack of air, between the lung and the shell that is connected to the outside but still a part of the body. Either interpretation has some implications which have to be taken into account. $\endgroup$
    – Annonymus
    Jul 2, 2016 at 19:05

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