Recently, a group of 100 researchers from around the globe have put in their molecular, computational biology, paleontology, and taxonomic expertise to know more about when the major groups of insects have evolved. The study is published in the ‘Science’ journal.
In this study, the researchers used a dataset comprising of 144 carefully chosen species. This enabled them to make authentic estimates on the dates of origin and relationships of all major insect groups based on the dataset. The study concluded that the insects evolved at the same time as the earliest terrestrial plants, which is about 480 million years ago. The findings of the study seem to indicate that insects helped shape the early terrestrial ecosystems. Moreover, the researchers also discovered that insects developed wings to fly about 400 million years ago, which is long before any other animal.
An academy curator who contributed to the fly-related portion of the study, Michelle Trautwein, said in a news release, “While visualizing a giant map of the evolution of life on Earth, insects are by far the largest part of the picture. We haven’t had a very clear picture of how insects evolved-from the origins of metamorphosis to which insects were first to fly. Now sequencing technology enables us to compare huge amounts of genetic data, and for the first time ever, we can fill these knowledge gaps. Science is taking us closer to solving the mysteries of the evolution of life than ever before.”
One of the researchers, Karl Kjer said, “Phylogeny forms the foundation for telling us the who?, what?, when?, and why? Of life. Several previous obstinate questions are now resolved, though many of the ‘revolutions’ brought about by previous analyses of smaller molecular datasets have contained errors that are now being corrected.”
The recent study reveals a bit more about the evolution of insects and could have important implications for future studies. For applied research, it will become possible to comparatively analyze metabolic pathways of different insects and also specifically target pest species and insects.