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Insect vs. Animal: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 11, 2023
"Insect" refers to a class of small arthropod animals with a three-part body, while "animal" is a broad term for all living organisms that move and consume organic material.

Key Differences

Insects, belonging to the class Insecta, are characterized by a three-part body structure (head, thorax, abdomen), six legs, and typically one or two pairs of wings. While, animals encompass a much broader category in the kingdom Animalia, which includes all organisms capable of movement and feeding on organic material.
Insects are known for their exoskeleton, a hard outer shell, and undergo metamorphosis during their life cycle. Animals, in general, exhibit a wide range of characteristics, from the vertebrates like mammals and birds to invertebrates like mollusks and insects.
Specific to insects is their role in various ecosystems, often as pollinators or decomposers.However, animals, as a whole, occupy every ecological niche from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains, playing various roles in their ecosystems.
Insects, while numerous, are small in size and have limited cognitive abilities. While, animals include species with complex brains and behaviors, like dolphins and humans, displaying a wide range of intelligence and social structures.
Insects are the largest group within the animal kingdom, with millions of species, but they represent only one class among many others in the animal kingdom. The term "animal" includes a diverse array of life forms, from single-celled organisms to complex mammals.

Comparison Chart


A small arthropod with a three-part body, six legs, often with wings
Any living organism capable of movement and consuming organic material

Body Structure

Three-part body, exoskeleton, six legs
Varies widely, from simple forms to complex vertebrates

Intelligence and Behavior

Limited cognitive abilities, instinct-driven
Ranges from simple, instinctual behavior to complex, intelligent actions

Ecological Role

Typically pollinators, decomposers
Diverse roles in ecosystems, from predators to herbivores


Millions of species, limited to one class
Encompasses the entire kingdom Animalia, extremely diverse

Insect and Animal Definitions


Member of the class Insecta, distinguished by their exoskeleton and metamorphosis.
Bees, an essential insect species, play a crucial role in pollination.


A living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system.
The lion, a majestic animal, is known as the king of the jungle.


A small arthropod animal characterized by six legs, a three-part body, and often wings.
The butterfly, a colorful insect, fluttered around the garden.


Any member of the kingdom Animalia, characterized by voluntary movement.
Dolphins are intelligent animals known for their playful behavior.


A type of invertebrate animal, generally small in size and abundant in nature.
The ant is an incredibly strong insect for its size.


An organism that is not a plant or a single-celled life form.
The kangaroo is a unique animal native to Australia.


A creature that typically has a segmented body and compound eyes.
The dragonfly is a fast-flying insect often seen near water.


A multicellular eukaryotic organism that is typically mobile and responsive to its environment.
The eagle is a powerful animal, admired for its sharp vision and hunting skills.


An organism within the phylum Arthropoda, known for its ecological importance.
Ladybugs are beneficial insects in gardens, as they eat pests.


A creature with a complex structure, often capable of complex and adaptive behaviors.
The elephant is a highly social animal with a strong familial bond.


Any of numerous arthropod animals of the class Insecta, having an adult stage characterized by three pairs of legs and a body segmented into head, thorax, and abdomen and usually having one or two pairs of wings. Insects include the flies, crickets, mosquitoes, beetles, butterflies, and bees.


Any of numerous multicellular eukaryotic organisms of the kingdom Metazoa (or Animalia) that ingest food rather than manufacturing it themselves and are usually able to move about during at least part of their life cycle. Sponges, jellyfishes, flatworms, mollusks, arthropods, and vertebrates are animals.


Any of various other small, chiefly arthropod animals, such as spiders, centipedes, or ticks, usually having many legs. Not in scientific use.


An animal organism other than a human, especially a mammal.


An insignificant or contemptible person.


A person who behaves in a bestial or brutish manner.


What distinguishes an insect?

An insect is distinguished by its three-part body, six legs, and often wings.

What is an animal?

An animal is a living organism that moves, consumes organic material, and has a nervous system.

What is the role of insects in nature?

Insects play various roles, including pollination, decomposition, and serving as food for other animals.

Do all animals have a backbone?

No, not all animals have a backbone; those without are called invertebrates, like insects.

Are all insects small?

Most insects are small, but some, like certain beetles and moths, can be relatively large.

Can animals live in any environment?

Animals are adapted to live in various environments, from deserts to oceans.

What are the most intelligent animals?

Some of the most intelligent animals include dolphins, elephants, and primates.

How do insects reproduce?

Most insects reproduce by laying eggs, but some give birth to live young.

What is metamorphosis in insects?

Metamorphosis in insects is a process of transformation from larva to adult form.

Do animals play a role in ecosystems?

Yes, animals play crucial roles in ecosystems, such as predators, prey, and pollinators.

Are insects found everywhere?

Insects are found in almost every environment on Earth, except the deep ocean.

Can insects fly?

Many insects can fly, but not all; it's a common feature but not universal.

Are all animals mobile?

Most animals are mobile at some stage of their life, but some, like corals, are stationary as adults.

What is the largest group of animals?

The largest group of animals is insects, with millions of species.

How do insects affect agriculture?

Insects can both benefit and harm agriculture, as pollinators or pests.

Do insects have a brain?

Insects have a simple brain, mainly for basic functions and instincts.

How do animals adapt to their environment?

Animals adapt through various means, such as physical adaptations, behavior changes, and evolutionary processes.

What are common features of insects?

Common features of insects include an exoskeleton, segmented bodies, and antennae.

Do all animals eat other organisms?

Most animals eat other organisms, but some are scavengers or herbivores.

How do animals communicate?

Animals communicate in various ways, including sounds, body language, and chemical signals.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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