Humble bug plugs gap in fossil record

2012-08-01 22:14

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.

  • karl.priest1 - 2012-08-02 02:17

    An insect was, is, and always will be just that. No evolution here.

      lane_87 - 2012-08-02 03:15

      The creationist stance was, is, and always will be an unscientific one. No evolution here either.

      Practice - 2012-08-02 03:53

      @karl - How did you come to that conclusion? Please explain. I would love to hear you're methods.

      fredster.mania.5 - 2012-08-02 07:36

      Assumptions is all they have

      ben.nel2 - 2012-08-02 08:09

      Why would a creator decide to fossilise creatures?

      DamnTheMan - 2012-08-02 10:01

      @Fredster69 I agree creationism is just an assumption hey ? People that believe it can't be done , must not stop the people doing it...

  • DavidLBump - 2012-08-02 05:16

    Uh, guys, did you read the article? "It has everything an insect should have: the legs, the antennae, the thorax and the abdomen,..." and "...the researchers is probably the larva of a winged animal...[which] would ... mean that winged insects originated much earlier than available fossils have suggested, Shear said." In short, it's not an intermediate between insects and some earlier arthropod, it's a fully-formed insect, probably of a type with wings, even. So in this case there's no evolutionary step being discovered. The gap being filled (maybe, they say) is in the expectation that insects should appear earlier. They say it's based on DNA analysis, but that analysis is calibrated on the diversity of insects in the fossil record. However, it would also be expected that there would be many lineages of insects diversifying from some basic form that had evolved from something else. Since this is just one poor fossil, and of a larva at that, and probably of a species that could fly, there's not much to go on regarding that.

      fedor.steeman - 2012-08-03 08:38

      Uh, David, yes, it is in an insect, but found in a period from which there virtually were no insects or even hexapods known. THAT is the gap that is now being filled. Moreover, as you can clearly tell from the illustrations, it is a very basic insect, with an extremely generalized bodyplan, unlike that of any insects living today. In other words: It is the perfect model for an ancestral form of insect. In that sense, it is also very much like more primitive hexapods. So that means it is both transitional and it fills a previous gap.

  • hein.huyser - 2012-08-02 06:48

    Last time I checked DNA disintegrates after a reasonably short while. Now this 400million year old claim? Far stretch if you ask me

      tony.long.7355 - 2012-08-02 07:51

      Nobody's claiming to have found DNA in this Devonian fossil Bru. What you should understand from the comment is "Based on MODERN DNA studies, and the trend that they reveal".... Similarly, DavidLBump's comment that the fossil does not reveal 'intermediate' characteristics and is thus not being put forward as an 'evolutionary' stage in this study is correct. What's your point, creationists?

  • Castiel - 2012-08-02 07:21

    And so god's gap grows increasingly smaller.

      DamnTheMan - 2012-08-02 10:12

      There is no gap any more , just for the mentally challenged or hopelessly indoctrinated. Free thought is the enemy of religion , when the church lost its ability to kill people for "believing" differently they lost the war. And the only way to win is to cheat by abusing children and lying to them. No faith in god to contact and save people , xians actively "need" to do it for god. Pathetic...

  • jonathon.tyler - 2012-08-02 07:30

    Time and time again evolution is proved right. Another unique find to validate the theory, nature is truly remarkable.

      Phillip - 2012-08-02 08:00

      jonathon . This is ONE fossil. Please explain to me again about Piltdown man?

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 08:58

      Philip, Piltdown Man was a fake. The scientific method, (do you know what that is???), revealed it to be so. Remember that science is self correcting and any new data or finding is peer reviewed and scrutinised. Once concensus is reached among those who work in this field, it is accepted into the general body of information. Fakes like Piltdown Man will always be exposed usuing the scientific method. SO what was your point you were trying to make mentioning Piltdown Man???

      Phillip - 2012-08-02 09:24

      Bloodbane Captian Gaza. I am well aware that Piltdown man was a fake. I just wanted you to admit it here. Now that we have established that can you with certainty tell me that discoveries found today will not be provnd to be something else next week or next year. It is for that reason that I am unable to get excited when there are findings with maybe or probably in them.

  • jawa.bunter - 2012-08-02 07:30

    Another nail in the coffin of religion

      Phillip - 2012-08-02 07:45

      Jawa "Another nail in the coffin of religion" Did you read the article completely. The article says " But he also urges a degree of caution, stressing the study is based on interpretation of a single fossil in relatively poor condition" and then there is ""What would make it more certain? A better preserved specimen, especially one that showed more clearly the appendages and mouth parts," he told AFP." and finally "it is probably the larva of a winged animal" How can this be a nail in the coffin of religion. Wishful thinking. Too many maybe's and probably and coulds.

      jawa.bunter - 2012-08-02 08:16

      Phillip A small nail admittedly, but still a nail.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 09:04

      With each new finding Phillip your god of gaps gets smaller and smaller. Soon we will not nned god to explain the universe we live in or our origins. If you think we were poofed into existance you are sorely mistaken. Evolution is fact, whether you like it or not. Intergrate it into your superstition and move on.

      Phillip - 2012-08-02 09:26

      captain Gaza. With each ne finding my "God of the gaps" does not get smaller. He is the creator the complexity of the universe as well as life shows that. All that fossils prove is that something died a long time ago. That is all. Piltdown man and Nebraska man are proof of this.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 09:38

      Well, that's quite a claim Phillip, do you have any evidence to back that up that your creator did indeed create all this? I'm curious to know where you got your facts from.

      press.enter.12 - 2012-08-03 09:40

      After all Phillip got his facts from Bronze age man . . . . . how dare we argue . . . . . .

  • ben.nel2 - 2012-08-02 08:07

    It was a Wednesday

  • craig.m.fulton - 2012-08-02 08:45

    I do not see how religious belief has anything to do with this article.

  • paul.vanlooy.52 - 2012-08-02 08:49

    Once upon a time somebody said ‘What if’ evolution happened. He repeated it often enough and it became fact. Then other people expanded it with some more ‘What if’s’, repeated it often enough and it also became fact. So it continued, and today we have a “science” called evolution. If somebody found a steel blade in some rock, or coal (and many items have been found), one would never think it evolved, but was made by someone. Yet something as complex as a DNA strand required to make up a cell somehow happened because we waited long enough. Just the basic protein molecules required to start this process are countless times more complicated and unlikely to have just happened that a steel blade and yet we believe it did. Whether you wait 10 000 years to win the lottery ten times in a row, or whether you wait 10 billion years to win the lottery ten times in a row, it’s just not going to happen. I think evolutionists should start realising what they’re trying to believe just can’t be.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 09:20

      Actually Paul, the repetition you speak of sounds more like religion. You need to remove that really thick pair of god goggles you wear if you want to see the truth. Evolution is a scientific fact, do you have any idea what constitutes a fact in science?? I doubt it cause if you did you wouldn't have posted this rubbish that just makes you look like a dimbwit. C'mon dude, catch a wake up.

      DamnTheMan - 2012-08-02 10:18

      As apposed to talking donkey's and snakes is that more probably ? Maybe you should stick to Sunday school classes ! Of course you can disprove it at any time , anyone with a brain can , can you say that about god ? Can you even prove he exists ? Please convert all atheists here with evidence of god , jebus or the holy dimwit. Damn the man

      paul.vanlooy.52 - 2012-08-02 10:42

      Yes, I thought you guys will probably start frothing at the mouth and throw insults. 'Damn the Man', you want evidence of God. Open your eyes and look at his creation.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 11:18

      Frothing at the mouth, LOL, I see Charlie Boy's logic has infected your mind too. Why such a weak mind?

      DamnTheMan - 2012-08-02 14:35

      @paul.vanlooy.52 you claim to know god , introduce him to us, if you can ? Well if you can't , he does not exist...

      press.enter.12 - 2012-08-03 09:47

      Actually Paul.vanlooy we know where everything around us comes from - and there is more in the making everyday that can be observed - and no - you dont need to invent a myth to explain it and repeat it a zillion times to make it believable to those who dont care to carry on asking when the going gets difficult. Intelectual lazyness is no excuse . . . . .

  • paul.vanlooy.52 - 2012-08-02 13:14

    One thing is clear. I’m not going to change your mind and you’re not going to change mine. I’m a real lost cause. Not only do I believe in creation; I also believe in a young earth. I have studied this quite a lot, and am convinced of what I believe is true (and scientific) and am happy with it. I sure you’re also happy and convinced with your science.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 13:30

      We are past the point of convincing each other Paul. How you can believe in a young earth is beyond me. Science has proven you wrong many times already and you ignore what is the truth. To gain a decent perspective perhaps you should change to reading material that is not endorsed by The Discovery Institute and the like. Paul, are you happy with the concept of Intelligent Falling that your ID now wishes to propogate as truth?

      paul.vanlooy.52 - 2012-08-02 13:53

      CaptainGaza. Never heard of the Discovery Institute (until I Googled it now). I don't know much about Intelligent Falling, but I don't think I would identify with that. God is separate from his creation. Intelligent Falling would imply he's part of creation. I guess we just don't understand gravity properly yet.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 14:25

      But Paul, the Discovery Institute is the last word for YECs like yourself on creation. They too believe in a young earth and the creation account, just like yourself. I'm very surprised you've never heard of these people, maybe that's a good thing because they're a real twisted bunch. Now you say believe science, how do you reconcile the glaring differences in your mind the answers science gives us regarding the age of the earth and what creationists believe it to be.(6000 years old)

      DamnTheMan - 2012-08-02 14:34

      @paul.vanlooy.52 at what point does your "belief" become reality ? Just a thought ...

      paul.vanlooy.52 - 2012-08-02 15:04

      CaptainGaza. What makes the world ‘old’? As far as I see it, two main things, radiometric clocks and the geological column. The geological column can be explained very easily if one acknowledges the great flood (which of course geologists can’t do, because it’s not scientific. They have to assume that things changed as fast as they’re changing today). Radiometric dating has to make assumptions which perhaps can’t be assumptions, like what we’re the initial conditions when the clocks started and have these conditions always remained the same, for example, has the speed of light always been the same, of which it is directly proportional? There have been studies done which claim the speed of light is slowing down. “Damn the Man” Reality depends very much on what you’re smoking.

      CaptainGaza - 2012-08-02 15:36

      You seem to have a problem with how science observes the world we live in. You're blinded by faith if you think the flood was real as sedimentry deposits around the globe are not even should there have been a global flood. How do you account for all the water etc etc. I can see your bias towards religion is what's confusing you and not allowing you to see evidence. Light is not slowing down and has always been constant, please give me links to the research that says otherwise, I'd love to read it. Paul, you need t appl y common sense and logic if you wish to understand the reality you live in. Believing in a delusion will always leave you looking rather dimb. Remove your god goggles and see the reality around you.

      paul.vanlooy.52 - 2012-08-03 15:22

      CaptainGaza. This reply is rather late. Unfortunately I also have to do some work. I'm not sure if you'll still read it. However, the flood did occur approx. 4500 years, or so ago. There is plenty evidence to support that (e.g. Large flood plains, polystrate fossils, dispersion of fossils, defined strata layers, large fossil deposits, frozen mammoths, Grand Canyon, oldest living trees, Great Barrier Reef). There is enough water in the oceans to cover the earth a mile deep. Regarding the slowing speed of light, it is something fairly new and is starting to get more attention. Google it. Its not something I'm stuck on, but it would explain why radiometeric dating makes the earth appear so old. Radiometeric dating has enough other problems. Regarding DI, there is absolutely no reason why I have to identify with any institution, no matter how many other people do, or don't. Also, it is very little concern to me who thinks I'm dim and who doesn't. I wear my God googles, you wear your evolution goggles. I would ask you to explain evolution anomalies , but there are so many evolution theories and they keep changing all the time. Creation theory hasn't changed at all. One day science will catch up to the bible.

  • Quantronium - 2012-08-02 16:28

    Was this ''bug'' a Christian :?

  • Quantronium - 2012-08-02 17:36

    Or maybe this bug was a scientist!, because I dont see hw this bug has anything to do with the exictance of God

  • walter.lebza - 2012-08-02 18:44

    Evolution? This is just another creature that went extinct due to climate change and or maybe poaching. They might aswell call a tasmanian tiger a link between a dog and tiger or a quagga a donkey that was evolving into a zebra. Those who are sane know well that a very bad weather destroys some of the creatures it can be extream heat or heavy rains and never forget poaching. Maybe this bug was just a delicate dish eaten by our ancestors just as we eat shark fin soup and other endangered fish with sushi. Many creatures lived and now are extinct due to some circumstances. But God created them all.

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