6 Difference Between Complete And Incomplete Metamorphosis With Examples

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What Is Complete Metamorphosis?

Complete metamorphosis refers to change in anatomical and physiological form through a series of life stages. Complete metamorphosis begins with the insect hatching from an egg into a soft worm-like shape called a larva. Larvae have a very big appetite and can eat several times their own body weight every day. If humans did the same thing, babies would start out eating as much as 10 pounds of food each day. For insects, this super-sized larva diet makes them grow very fast. 

Some larvae add more body segments as they grow. Scientists refer to these developmental changes as instars which are similar to how humans call their children babies, toddlers, or teenagers. For example, instead of being called a baby, a very young larva would be called an instar 1 and a teenager would be called an instar 3. The number of instar stages can be different depending on the type of insect.

At the end of the larval stage the insect will make a hard shell and inside it will become a pupa. At this stage the larva will stop eating and moving. The pupa appears lifeless, but one of Nature’s most amazing transformations is happening. Inside the pupa, the larva’s body will completely change into a fully grown adult.  Once the adult leaves the pupa it slowly stretches out and relaxes under the sun for a couple of hours while its exoskeleton dries out and hardens.

Insects with complete metamorphosis include:

  • Beetles
  • Bees
  • Ants
  • Butterflies
  • Moths
  • Fleas
  • Mosquitoes

What You Need To Know About Complete Metamorphosis

  • Complete metamorphosis refers to a type of insect development whose egg, larva, pupal, and adult stages differ greatly in morphology.
  • Complete metamorphosis consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Complete metamorphosis consists of a very active, ravenously eating larva and an inactive pupa.
  • The exoskeleton of the insect is completely molted during the complete metamorphosis.
  • Final stage of the insect becomes reproductively successful in complete metamorphosis.
  • Complete metamorphosis occurs in wasps, ants, and fleas.

What Is Incomplete Metamorphosis?

Incomplete metamorphosis refers to a type of insect development where gradual changes occur in the insect during the development from egg to the adult. The first stage of incomplete metamorphosis is the egg. During this time, the insect will hatch into a form called a nymph.

The nymph is basically a small version of the adult insect. This is very similar to how a child looks like his or her parents. Nymphs usually have a thin exoskeleton and no wings. They eat the same food as their parents and live in the same place. As insect nymphs grow larger, their exoskeleton becomes too tight and they must replace it.

Once a nymph outgrows its exoskeleton it will go through a process called molting, in which it leaves the old “skin” or exoskeleton behind. The new “skin” will harden and become the new exoskeleton. This will happen many times until the insect finally becomes the size of an adult.

Insects that have an incomplete metamorphosis life cycle include:

  • True bugs
  • Grasshoppers
  • Cockroaches
  • Termites
  • Praying mantises
  • Crickets
  • Lice

What You Need To Know About Incomplete Metamorphosis

  • Incomplete metamorphosis refers to a type of insect development where gradual changes occur in the insect during the development from egg to the adult.
  • Incomplete metamorphosis consists of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
  • Incomplete metamorphosis consists of a nymph, which resembles a miniature adult. 
  • Certain portions of the exoskeleton of the insect remains throughout the lifetime in incomplete metamorphosis.
  • Some of the former stages of the insect are reproductively successful in incomplete metamorphosis.
  • Incomplete metamorphosis occurs in termites, praying mantis, and cockroaches.

Also Read: Difference Between Locust And Grasshopper

Difference Between Complete And Incomplete Metamorphosis In Tabular Form

BASIS OF COMPARISON COMPLETE METAMORPHOSIS INCOMPLETE METAMORPHOSIS
Description Complete metamorphosis refers to a type of insect development whose egg, larva, pupal, and adult stages differ greatly in morphology.   Incomplete metamorphosis refers to a type of insect development where gradual changes occur in the insect during the development from egg to the adult.  
Stages Complete metamorphosis consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.   Incomplete metamorphosis consists of three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.  
Main Feature Complete metamorphosis consists of a very active, ravenously eating larva and an inactive pupa.   Incomplete metamorphosis consists of a nymph, which resembles a miniature adult.   
Exoskeleton The exoskeleton of the insect is completely molted during the complete metamorphosis.   Certain portions of the exoskeleton of the insect remains throughout the lifetime in incomplete metamorphosis.  
Stages Final stage of the insect becomes reproductively successful in complete metamorphosis.   Some of the former stages of the insect are reproductively successful in incomplete metamorphosis.  
Examples Complete metamorphosis occurs in wasps, ants, and fleas.   Incomplete metamorphosis occurs in termites, praying mantis, and cockroaches.