Is a fly an animal or an insect? List two characteristics to support this classification.

Expert Answers info

booboosmoosh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2003

write4,119 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The common housefly is not an animal, but an insect. It is an arthropod, a classification of insect.

Arthropods are animals with exoskeletons (external skeletons), segmented bodies, and jointed legs.

The fly's "class" is "Insecta." An insect is defined as...

...any animal of the class Insecta, comprising small, air-breathing arthropods having the body divided into three parts (head, thorax and abdomen) and having three pairs of legs and usually two pairs of wings.

Based on this definition, the fly is an insect. It has three main body parts: the head (with two "compound eyes" and three "simple" eyes); the thorax, which governs flight; and, the abdomen, used for digestion and reproduction.

The fly is also an insect because an actual fly has a pair of wings (hence its "order," Diptera, which means "two-winged). The fly also has three pairs of legs: one pair is located at the front of the body, facing forward; the next pair is found—one on either side of the body, at the middle; and, the third pair are located toward the back, facing backward.

While the fly aides in the natural decomposition of dead animals, it is also considered a "major pest." In feeding off of dead meat, it becomes a carrier of sixty-five diseases dangerous specifically to human beings such as...

...typhoid fever, dysentery, cholera, leprosy and tuberculosis.

For such a small insect—that lives at most a week and a half during the warmest summer months—the fly is responsible for spreading deadly diseases, which far outweighs the benefits it offers to the environment in breaking down dead animals.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

kmlorenz63 | Student

A fly is an insect because it has a single pair of metathoracic wings that are used for flight. This is what distinguishes the fly as a "true" fly (as opposed to a butterfly, which does not have the metathoracic wings). Flies also are classified in the order Diptera, with a literal translation meaning "two wings". Also, a fly does not have a backbone (it has an exoskeleton on the outside of its body), which is a characteristic of insects. All insects also hatch from eggs and have six legs/two antennae.

Ask a Question