Oldest found insect is – are you ready? – 400 million years old
|September 13, 2011||Posted by News under stasis, News|
And you’re not tired of hooting at Darwinism yet? Nor are we.
According to Andrew Ross, the curator for fossil arthropods at the Natural History Museum, the fossil, a springtail, sat around for 60 years before being recognized for what it was.
In 2002 two American scientists, Dr Michael Engel from the University of Kansas and Dr David Grimaldi from the American Museum of Natural History Museum, New York, visited the Museum to study the fossil insect collections. One of the specimens they asked to see was Rhyniognatha hirsti . From an initial examination they realised it was interesting and borrowed it to take back to the states to study in more detail. There they realised the true importance of the specimen and wrote a paper for the prestigious journal ‘Nature’ that was published on 12th February 2004.
Although there is no evidence of wings preserved in the Rhynie Chert, the advanced form of the mandibles of Rhyniognatha indicates that it could have been winged. This is very important as the oldest known fossils of flying insects are 320 million years old; the presence of true insects as far back as 400 million years ago indicates that wings may have evolved much earlier.
Here’s the abstract:
Late Carboniferous paleoichnology reveals the oldest full-body impression of a flying insect
Insects were the first animals to evolve powered flight and did so perhaps 90 million years before the first flight among vertebrates. However, the earliest fossil record of flying insect lineages (Pterygota) is poor, with scant indirect evidence from the Devonian and a nearly complete dearth of material from the Early Carboniferous. By the Late Carboniferous a diversity of flying lineages is known, mostly from isolated wings but without true insights into the paleoethology of these taxa. Here, we report evidence of a full-body impression of a flying insect from the Late Carboniferous Wamsutta Formation of Massachusetts, representing the oldest trace fossil of Pterygota. Through ethological and morphological analysis, the trace fossil provides evidence that its maker was a flying insect and probably was representative of a stem-group lineage of mayflies. The nature of this current full-body impression somewhat blurs distinctions between the systematics of traces and trace makers, thus adding to the debate surrounding ichnotaxonomy for traces with well-associated trace makers.
See also: 200 million-year-old eel, discovered alive, predates current eel fossils