Sunday, 9 November 2014

Evolutionary Tree Of Insects Released

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online

After an exhaustive two-year period of research, a large international team of scientists has finally unveiled its comprehensive evolutionary tree of insects on Earth in the journal Science.

“When you imagine a giant map of the evolution of life on Earth, insects are by far the largest part of the picture,” said study contributor Michelle Trautwein, a curator at the California Academy of Sciences. “We have not had a very clear picture of how insects evolved – from the origins of metamorphosis to which insects were first to fly.”

“New sequencing technology allowed us to compare huge amounts of genetic data, and for the first time ever, we can fill these knowledge gaps,” Trautwein added. “Science is taking us closer to solving the mysteries of the evolution of life than ever before.”

The researchers were able to determine insects originated simultaneously with the earliest terrestrial plants approximately 480 million years ago, which suggests both shaped the original terrestrial ecosystems on Earth. The team also established that insects grew wings well before any other animal, and at almost the same time that land plants first grew significantly upwards to create forests.

Using genetic information from 144 carefully-picked species, scientists from the 1,000 Insect Transcriptome Evolution (1KITE) project provided estimates on the origin dates and associations of all main insect groups by using the massive amount of molecular information they amassed.

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