From ScienceDaily: They predate the Createous period, moths and butterflies existed earlier than the Cretaceous period, which began 145 million years ago.
A team of scientists report on new evidence that primitive moths and butterflies existed during the Jurassic period, approximately 50 million years earlier than the first flowering plants, shedding new light on one of the most confounding cases of co-evolution.
The slides of rock samples drilled in the German countryside included some material that looked familiar to Strother, a Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences researcher at Boston College’s Weston Observatory, who studies the origin and early evolution of land plants. What he saw were features similar to those found in insect wings.
The wrinkle was that these types of moths and butterflies — known as Lepidoptera — were long posited to have evolved 50 to 70 million years later, during the Cretaceous period when the first flowering plants emerged as their prime food source.
“The consensus has been that insects followed flowers,” said Strother, a co-author of “A Triassic-Jurassic window into the evolution of Lepidoptera,” a new report published today in Science Advances. “But that would be 50 million years later than what the wings were saying. It was odd to say the least, that there would be butterflies before there were flowers.”Paper. (public access) – Timo J. B. van Eldijk, Torsten Wappler, Paul K. Strother, Carolien M. H. van der Weijst, Hossein Rajaei, Henk Visscher, Bas van de Schootbrugge. A Triassic-Jurassic window into the evolution of Lepidoptera. Science Advances, 2018; 4 (1): e1701568 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1701568 More.
The insects were feeding on “ pollen droplets of gymnosperm seeds — from conifers related to pines, seed plants without fruits and flowers.”
The researchers say,
“This is the old-fashioned science of discovery,” said Strother. “We’re looking at this microscopic world of things that lived hundreds of millions of years ago and we don’t know what they are. The challenge is: can we figure out what they are? Part of it is piecing together the tree of life, or the evolution of organisms through time. It is more like a puzzle or a mystery.”
Actually, it’s like history, full of surprises. What it’s not like is dogma or propaganda.
See also: How did smart crow beak adapt to tool use?
Speaking of ways evolution can happen, there’s also co-evolution
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