Facts for kids: The animal that kills the most people?

mosquito

Mosquitoes have been around for 100 million years.

The animal that kills the most people may well surprise you. Forget lions, snakes, spiders, bees or dogs. The animal widely regarded as killing the most people in modern history is the mosquito (Spanish for ‘little fly’).

Mosquitoes kill more than a million people a year and are known to spread diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, encephalitis, and dengue fever. Most deaths are the result of malaria. The World Health Organisation claims that between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria occur each year, and a child dies from malaria every 30 seconds.

Malaria is spread by hungry female mosquitoes carrying the malaria parasite Plasmodium in their guts. When the mosquito bites a human it injects into the body saliva containing the parasite. The parasite enters the blood stream, makes its way to the liver and gets down to multiplying. From there the parasites leave the liver and infect red blood cells, which are then destroyed. Blood vessels in the brain and lungs are also affected, leading to low oxygen levels and often coma followed by death.

Anti-malarial drugs exist, but there’s currently no malaria vaccine.

Short answer: The mosquito kills the most people. The majority of deaths occur in Africa. Scientists are currently working on a vaccine to defeat the malaria parasite.

Which war killed the most people?

Battle of Stalingrad

These German soliders probably died on the Eastern Front.

No one knows the exact death toll, but World War Two killed the most people with up to 85 million people dead. This figure includes war-related deaths such as disease and famine.

While the figure of 85 million is the subject of debate by academics and researchers, it is agreed that more civilians died than soldiers, and that the Soviet Union suffered the most with up to 30 million dead.

Death wasn’t confined to the battlefield. World War Two was notable for indiscriminate bombing of populated civilian areas, the holocaust, mistreatment of prisoners, slavery, crimes against humanity, and famine.

Short answer: World War Two killed the most people in history. Eastern Europe was perhaps the most dangerous place to be. The German and Russian armies not only fought each other but also committed widespread atrocities on civilian populations.

Which came first? Chicken or egg?

eggman

John Lennon was on the money.

This question is not new. Ancient philosophers Aristotle, Plutarch and Macrobius considered it, as has the modern genius Stephen Hawking. The ‘chicken or egg’ dilemma isn’t just a matter of biological evolution but also one of impasse. Still, you can have fun asking and answering this question using evolutionary knowledge many of us take for granted.

If you’ve read Darwin’s On the Origin of Species you might know the answer already.

It’s the egg. To put it extremely simply, a very close genetic relative of the chicken laid an egg that featured a mutation. The mutation may have occurred during conception, or within the egg itself, giving rise to what we consider a chicken. Indeed, scientists believe the modern chicken is a hybrid of the red junglefowl and the grey junglefowl.

I’m sure acolytes of the Book of Genesis have a problem with the above, but feel free to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply’.

Short answer: John Lennon said it best when he sang “I am the egg man”.