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“Moths’ ‘ears’ developed millions of years before bats” study is open access

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Remember, “At The Atlantic: Textbook Evolution Story Is Said To Be WRONG”?

Here’s some background: From ScienceDaily:

Butterflies and moths rank among the most diverse groups in the animal kingdom, with nearly 160,000 known species, ranging from the iconic blue morpho to the crop-devouring armyworm.

Scientists have long attributed these insects’ rich variety to their close connections with other organisms. Butterflies, they hypothesized, evolved in tandem with the plants they fed on, and moths developed sophisticated defense mechanisms in response to bats, their main predators.

Now, a new study examines these classic hypotheses by shining a light on the early history of Lepidoptera, the order that includes moths and butterflies. Using the largest-ever data set assembled for the group, an international team of researchers created an evolutionary family tree for Lepidoptera and used fossils to estimate when moths and butterflies evolved key traits.

Their findings show that flowering plants did drive much of these insects’ diversity. In a surprise twist, however, multiple moth lineages evolved “ears” millions of years before the existence of bats, previously credited with triggering moths’ development of hearing organs.

“Having a fossil-dated family tree gives us our most detailed look yet at the evolutionary history of moths and butterflies,” said the study’s lead author Akito Kawahara, University of Florida associate professor and curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity. “We’ve thought for a long time that flowering plants must have contributed to the extraordinary number of moth and butterfly species we see today, but we haven’t been able to test that. This study helps us see if prior hypotheses line up, and what we find is that the plant hypothesis does, but the bat hypothesis does not.”

The research also suggests lepidopterans are much older than previously thought, with the shared ancestor of today’s butterflies and moths likely appearing about 300 million years ago — roughly 100 years earlier than previous estimates.

A seminal 1964 paper by Paul Ehrlich and Peter Raven used the tightly interwoven relationships between butterflies and flowering plants as the foundation for the theory of coevolution — the idea that different organism groups evolve in response to one another. Paper. (open access) – Akito Y. Kawahara, David Plotkin, Marianne Espeland, Karen Meusemann, Emmanuel F. A. Toussaint, Alexander Donath, France Gimnich, Paul B. Frandsen, Andreas Zwick, Mario dos Reis, Jesse R. Barber, Ralph S. Peters, Shanlin Liu, Xin Zhou, Christoph Mayer, Lars Podsiadlowski, Caroline Storer, Jayne E. Yack, Bernhard Misof, and Jesse W. Breinholt. Phylogenomics reveals the evolutionary timing and pattern of butterflies and moths. PNAS, 2019 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1907847116 More.

Yes, that Paul Ehrlich, of “population bomb” fame.

Anyway. whatever happened to “Darwinism is too true to need testing. We can just assume it”?

See also: “Now what? The Atlantic fails to show proper respect to the Darwin lobby”

One Reply to ““Moths’ ‘ears’ developed millions of years before bats” study is open access

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    There’s a deeper problem than evolution vs creation. Science isn’t supposed to ask WHY something happened. WHY questions are necessarily religious and philosophical. Science is supposed to closely examine WHAT is here, and ask HOW it works, and STOP there.

    Carver’s rules:

    Look about you. Take hold of the THINGS that are HERE. Talk to them. Let them talk to you.

    If scientists followed those rules, we’d be better off.

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