ELI5- Why do bugs squirm when they are being hurt, but don’t limp when a leg is cut off? Do they feel pain? Or do they just have a protective reaction to harm that is being done to them?

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ELI5- Why do bugs squirm when they are being hurt, but don’t limp when a leg is cut off? Do they feel pain? Or do they just have a protective reaction to harm that is being done to them?

In: Biology

Bugs are like organic robots. They don’t “experience” things like we do; their brain is more of a collection of simple stimulus > response actions. Bugs squirm when they are caught or being attacked, because over the ~~billions~~ millions of years, some of the bugs that squirmed when caught managed to escape the grasp of a predator, while those that did not squirm as much were less likely to escape. So natural selection favored squirmy bugs, because they would be more likely to survive long enough to have offspring. The bug does not think at all about the cause and effect of “If I sqirum around, it’s possible this bird will drop me”. It has no concept of its present actions causing a positive outcome in the future – it’s just reflexively responding to the stimulus of being caught.

Also… Bugs with legs sounds like you are taking about bugs with exoskeletons… They might be too rigid to limp like you might be expecting.

From what I remember, bugs don’t have muscles for movement so they move just by the sheer force of pumping their blood through their limbs with every beat. That being said, once they are injured, the increased heart rate and pumping causes increased limb movement and thus the squirming

I once saw a wildlife program, which showed a closeup of a bug. As the camera pulled out, it became apparent that the bug was being eaten by a larger bug. The camera pulled back more, and this bug was itself being eaten by an even larger one.

Now, any creature that will carry on eating while its own rear end is being chewed to bits is, as far as I can see, not conscious or experiencing pain.

I’m interested in this because of course “just having a protective reaction to harm that is being done to us” is the reason humans experience pain. Therefore it makes sense that all animals would utilise the evolution of ‘pain’, since that’s the driver to get us out of bad situations. Our emotions are part of an ancient part of our brain because they guide our behaviour towards survival: empathy in social animals, love, fear, pain; these aren’t complex things, they’re absolute basics.