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Stunning Photographs of the World's Most Dominant Species

"Wings can be protective shells, musical instruments (grasshoppers), camouflage" and more!

Insects, however small, are more powerful than you may think. According to the Smithsonian, insects represent about 80 percent of the world's species -- 900 thousand different kinds of living insects are known. That's just the number of scientifically named species. Smithsonian says a conservative estimate is 2 million different kinds of insect species, though some estimates get as high as 30 million.

At any given time, it is estimated that there are 10 quintillion insects alive.

Insects are the only invertebrate that learned how to fly. And as Wired reports, wings are what have allowed them to achieve total world domination -- whether you see them in their proclaimed masses or not:

Their wings can be protective shells, musical instruments (grasshoppers), camouflage, signals to recognize each other, a means of attracting mates or warning predators, even tools to fly.

Insects are our greatest competitor for food. They also keep the earth clean and productive. These ecosystem workhorses could easily manage without us, but we could never manage without them.

In celebration of these chitin-made wonders, we’ve collected images to take you on a tour of the insect wing world.

Oh that's not stained glass above. This is insect wing venation. Venation among insects varies greatly and often helps entomologists identify one species from another.

Folded wings are kind of a big deal. Insects with folding wings allow insects to fly into tighter more crowded spaces, compared to non-folding wings, like those of a Dragonfly, which could get damaged. “Without that ability, flying is kind of awkward, like a fixed-wing aircraft,” Dave Kavanaugh, curator of the insect collection at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, said to Wired.

One of these things is not like the other . . . but can you tell. Insects have adapted their wings and bodies to blend in. Think the stick bug or leaf bug (pictured above).

Have you ever considered the fact that the outer shell on the back of a ladybug or other beetles are actually a hardened set of wings protecting more traditional-looking flight wings underneath? "They have the ability to fly when they need to. But they can invade soil and leaf litter, they can dig right into rotting fruit and eat, and they can dig into carcasses to help recycle them. Beetles have the best of both worlds," Kavanaugh said to Wired.

And that's your entomology for the day. View more photos on Wired.

One last thing…
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