MSN - Aside from pets, family members, or roommates, many of us often go weeks without seeing another living thing in our homes. But appearances can be deceiving. We are, in fact, surrounded by arthropods—insects, spiders, centipedes, and other animals with hard external skeletons and jointed legs. They are the most successful animals on the planet, and the walls that shield our homes to the elements are no barriers to them.
In the first systematic census of its kind, a team of entomologists combed through 50 American houses for every arthropod they could find, and discovered a startling amount of diversity. Each home had between 32 and 211 species, belonging to between 24 and 128 families. Most are not pests. Many were found everywhere, and yet are so obscure that only keen naturalists know about them. These bugs are our closest creaturely neighbors, and we barely register their existence.
"This study examined a fauna that was quite literally all around us but deemed of little interest," says Nancy McIntyre from Texas Tech University. "It's a miniature version of urban ecology as a whole." She means that ecologists have long ignored cities, due to some imagined gulf between man-made, 'unnatural' environments and wild, 'natural' ones. But we're a part of nature too, and it's increasingly clear that our urban ecosystems are worth studying.
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