From ScienceDaily: He’s Australian, around half a centimetre long, fairly nondescript, 300 million years old, and he’s currently causing astonishment among both entomologists and palaeontologists. The discovery of a beetle from the late Permian period, when even the dinosaurs had not yet appeared on the scene, is throwing a completely new light on the earliest developments in this group of insects.
“Beetles, which with nearly 400,000 described species today make up almost one-third of all known organisms, still lived a rather shadowy and cryptic existence in the Permian period,” explains Jena zoologist Beutel. “The fossils known to date have all belonged to an ancestral beetle lineage, with species preferring narrow spaces under bark of coniferous trees. They exhibit a whole series of primitive characteristics, such as wing cases (elytra) that had not yet become completely hardened or a body surface densely covered with small tubercles.”
In contrast, the species that has now been discovered, assigned to the newly introduced family Ponomarenkiidae, can be identified as a modern beetle, in spite of its remarkable age. Modern characteristics are the antennae resembling a string of beads, antennal grooves, and the unusually narrow abdomen, tapering to a point. What is more, unlike previously known Permian beetles, the wing cases are completely hardened, the body’s surface is largely smooth, and the thoracic segments responsible for locomotion show modern features, notes insect palaeontologist Yan. In addition, it appears that this little beetle had stopped living under tree bark, the habitat favoured by its contemporaries, and had adopted a much more exposed lifestyle on plants. A significant fact is that, due to its unorthodox combination of ancestral and modern characteristics, this genus does not fit in any of the four suborders of beetles that still exist, which is why Yan and Beutel have given it the nickname Bad Boy. Paper. (paywall) – Evgeny Viktorovich Yan, John Francis Lawrence, Robert Beattie, Rolf Georg Beutel. At the dawn of the great rise: †Ponomarenkia belmonthensis (Insecta: Coleoptera), a remarkable new Late Permian beetle from the Southern Hemisphere. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology, 2017; 1 DOI: 10.1080/14772019.2017.1343259 More.
In short, this beetle did not spend 300 million years evolving from a more primitive beetle into a state-of-the-art beetle. So when did it evolve these modern characteristics? Don’t pin too much hope on the previous three hundred million years. That takes us back to the Golden Age of Jellyfish.
Either something is wrong with the dating system or textbook zombie science isn’t working out. For now, I’d go with the latter problem because we have a fair idea what is wrong in that case.
See also: PBS: Origin of one-celled skeletons pushed back 200m years by Yukon find
Life in preCambrian much more dynamic than thought?
Stasis: When life goes on but evolution does not happen