Humble bug plugs gap in fossil record

2012-08-01 22:14
Strudiella devonica insect fossil

Strudiella devonica insect fossil

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Paris - One day 370 million years ago, a tiny larva came to a sticky end when it plunged into a shrimp-infested swamp and drowned.

Unearthed in modern-day Belgium, the humble bug now looks set to plug a giant gap in the fossil record.

Named Strudiella devonica, the eight-millimetre invertebrate - while in far from mint condition - is thought by researchers who published their findings in Nature on Wednesday to be the world's oldest complete insect fossil.

"It has everything an insect should have: the legs, the antennae, the thorax and the abdomen," said Andre Nel of France's National History Museum, one of the authors of the study.

Scientists until now had few if any confirmed insect fossils from between 385 and 325 million years ago, a period known as the Hexapoda Gap, William A Shear of Hampden-Sydney College wrote in a comment that accompanied the study.

Strudiella devonica could significantly narrow that gap in the fossil record.

Based on molecular DNA studies, Nel says scientists had long expected to find insect life dating that far back, but the fossil find yields insight into the evolutionary roots of the insect kingdom.

"Insects are an extremely ancient group, but we know very little about the earliest among them," he explained to AFP. "This find enables us to confirm our molecular dating, it's a palaeontological marker."

Nel said science "had a grand total of two fossilised mandibles from Scotland to account for the whole Devonian" -- the geological period running from around 415 million to 360 million years ago.

Nothing till now

From these isolated fossil fragments, some 400 million years old, fast-forward to a period known as the Carboniferous, 300 to 330 million years ago, and the fossil record teems with insects.

"In between this profusion of creatures of all kinds - cockroaches, dragonflies, grasshoppers - and the earliest specimens, we have nothing," Nel explained.

"Yet it was precisely at this time that these animals started to diversify, even started to appear since their ancestors were aquatic insects," he said.

With its six-legged thorax, long single-branched antennae, triangular jaws and 10-segmented abdomen, tiny Strudiella devonica is a strong contender for an insect ID card, Shear argues.

But he also urges a degree of caution, stressing the study is based on interpretation of a single fossil in relatively poor condition.

"What would make it more certain? A better preserved specimen, especially one that showed more clearly the appendages and mouth parts," he told AFP.

While the specimen itself does not have wings, the researchers believe that based on the shape of its mandibles - similar to those of a modern-day grasshopper - it is probably the larva of a winged animal.

If correct, that would also mean that winged insects originated much earlier than available fossils have suggested, Shear said.

The fossil was found in a rock slab in a quarry in Belgium, in a strata of very fine, slightly sandy clay - "probably a land animal that landed in a pond teeming with carnivorous shrimps, and that miraculously escaped being devoured by them," Nel said.

Read more on:    nature  |  us  |  france  |  research  |  insects
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
50 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Africa
 

Device lets disabled people talk through their nose

A device that converts nose breaths into speech will open new doors for people with Parkinson’s or motor neuron disease.

 
 

For chic geeks...

It’s THIS easy for someone to steal your ATM pin!
This is why you should install iOS 8
17 photo illusions that look so real
Check out the speed of this robo-cheetah!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

Desktop Support Engineer

Cape Town
Reflex Solutions (Pty) Ltd
R12 500 Per Month

MDW946 QA/QC MANAGER

Cape Town
Anchor Executive Recruitment (Pty) Ltd
R450 000 - R500 000 Per Year

Dispatch Supervisor

Cape Town Southern Suburbs
Cozens Recruitment Group ( Western Cape)
R22 000 - R25 000 Per Month

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Pre-order your iPhone 6 at kalahari.com

Hurry and pre-order your own iPhone 6 now at SA’s favourite online store!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

Mind blow low prices on electronics

Get either the Prestigio multiphone or Proline tablet 7” tablet for only R699. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off Barbie toys

Save 30% on all Barbie toys and accessories. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Baby extravanganza month at kalahari.com

Celebrate baby month with a wide range of awesome baby products. Offers valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may take extra pride in your work today. You have a need to shine and be respected so you may put the extra effort and TLC...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.