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9.17: Importance of Arthropods

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Are arthropods just creepy and scary?

Many arthropods, such as scorpions, insects, and spiders, have a reputation of being a nuisance or even harmful. But even if they are a little scary to you, that doesn't mean that the world would be fine without them.

Importance of Arthropods

Have you ever been startled by a bee landing on a flower? Or surprised by a swarm of pill bugs when you overturned a rock? These arthropods might seem a little scary to you, but they are actually performing important roles in the environment. Arthropods are important to the ecosystem and to humans in many ways.

Arthropods as Food

Many species of crustaceans, especially crabs, lobsters ( Figure below ), shrimp, prawns, and crayfish, are consumed by humans. Nearly 10,000,000 tons of arthropods as food were produced in 2005. Over 70% by weight of all crustaceans caught for consumption are shrimp and prawns. Over 80% is produced in Asia, with China producing nearly half the world’s total.

Lobsters are one kind of arthropod food source.

Arthropods in Pest Control

Humans use mites to prey on unwanted arthropods on farms or in homes. Other arthropods are used to control weed growth. Populations of whip scorpions added to an environment can limit the populations of cockroaches and crickets.

Ecological Roles

Many arthropods have extremely important roles in ecosystems. Mites, ticks, centipedes, and millipedes are decomposers , meaning they break down dead plants and animals and turn them into soil nutrients. This is an important role because it supplies the plants with the minerals and nutrients necessary for life. It also keeps dead material from accumulating in the environment. Plants then pass along those minerals and nutrients to the animals that eat the plants.


  • decomposer : Organism that breaks down dead plants and animals and turns them into soil nutrients.


  • Many crustaceans, especially crabs, lobsters, shrimp, prawns, and crayfish, are food sources for humans.
  • Mites, ticks, centipedes, and millipedes are decomposers, meaning they break down dead plants and animals and turn them into soil nutrients.


Use the resources below to answer the questions that follow.

  1. Why do scientists study the movement of arthropods?
  2. What arthropod characteristics have been integrated into the robot, Ariel?
  3. What benefits may we see from robots like Ariel?
  1. What is one of the biggest obstacles to raising lobsters?
  2. What is done with the juvenile lobsters?


  1. Name an example of an arthropod used as a food source for humans.
  2. Describe one important role that arthropods play in the ecosystem.

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Difficulty Level:

At Grade


7 , 8

Date Created:

Nov 29, 2012

Last Modified:

Nov 04, 2014
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