Pharyngula

A Devonian hexapod

It always seems to be the case that there are gaps in the fossil record just where things get interesting — probably with good reason, that forms in transition will be relatively rare. One such gap is the period where insects first emerge and begin to conquer the terrestrial world, a period called the arthropod gap, between 385 and 325 million years ago. Here’s a new specimen from that relatively barren stretch of time, Strudiella devonica.


a, Photograph of the part. b, Reconstruction of general habitus. Scale bar, 1 mm. White arrows indicate legs visible on part. abd, abdomen; ant, antenna; h, head; md, mandible.

It’s a classic insect: a body divided into three regions (head, thorax, abdomen), six legs, a fairly general set of omnivorous mouthparts. It lacks wings, but the small size suggests it may be in a nymphal stage (also, the genitals at the tip of the abdomen didn’t make it), so that may not mean much.


Garrouste R, Clément G, Nel P, Engel MS, Grandcolas P, D’Haese C, Lagebro L, Denayer J, Gueriau P, Lafaite P, Olive S, Prestianni C, Nel A (2012) A complete insect from the Late Devonian period. Nature 488, 82–85.
(Whew, that’s a lot of authors for a short paper.)

Comments

  1. #1 Nemo
    August 3, 2012

    It always seems to be the case that there are gaps in the fossil record just where things get interesting — probably with good reason, that forms in transition will be relatively rare.

    Creationists will quote-mine this, starting in 3…2…

  2. #2 Kerry
    Australia
    August 3, 2012

    Yes, most creationists don’t notice that the bible doesn’t so much say that God created life, but that the oceans were “commanded” to bring forth life. That’s evolution, ca 2000 BC.

  3. #3 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 3, 2012

    Kerry, to be fair, you’re quote-mining, too. And don’t confuse the origin of life with evolution.

  4. #4 Kerry
    Australia
    August 3, 2012

    Genesis gives us, in the symbolic context of seven days (seven being perfection) the process by which we came to be.
    1 – the early earth as dark and oceanic
    2 – the clearing of the cloud deck
    3 – the appearance of the granitic continents
    4 – the appearance of life in the oceans
    5 – the appearance of life on land
    6 – the appearance of man

    Some of these things, such as the early oceans, have only been understood in the past ten years.

  5. #5 Dan Gomiller
    August 3, 2012

    Well, I’m glad genesis was very precise and accurate in that portrayal, otherwise it would have taken science figuring out the details of how the earth formed FIRST in order to interpret it in that way.

    Also i have no idea how you got that series of events, what with the sun and moon appearing on the fourth day, after the plants somehow managed to take over the land, which happened before any sea life.

  6. […] It always seems to be the case that there are gaps in the fossil record just where things get interesting — probably with good reason, that forms in transition will be relatively rare. One such gap is the period where insects first emerge and begin to conquer the terrestrial world, a period called t… http://scienceblogs.com/… […]

  7. #7 Francisco Prestes
    Brasil
    August 3, 2012

    É mais uma prova da furada teoria da evolução, não há registros que a apoiem, em vez disso, espécimes se assemelham aos insetos comuns. E sem nenhuma evidência de transição. Os animais achados em completo desenvolvimento biológico!

  8. #8 Fred Magyar
    August 3, 2012

    In case anyone is wondering, Francisco Prestes is a very ignorant Brazilian who thinks that there is no evidence for the TOE.

    Francisco porque voce nao experimenta escrever em Ingles? Infelizmente a maioria dos leitores deste blog nao falam Portugues

    Quanto a falta de evidencia de transicao… nao e verdade pois existem muitos exemplos.

    Try this: http://dangerousintersection.org/2008/02/15/how-to-find-an-elusive-transitional-fossil-the-story-of-tiktaalik/

  9. #9 David Marjanović
    August 4, 2012

    1 – the early earth as dark and oceanic

    Why dark? And is there any evidence that the oceans are any older than the oldest continents (4.4 Ga last I checked)?

    2 – the clearing of the cloud deck

    What cloud deck???

    3 – the appearance of the granitic continents

    Too late.

    4 – the appearance of life in the oceans

    And in the air. Genesis 1 has “fish” and “birds” being created on the same day. That’s right, birds before land animals.

    5 – the appearance of life on land

    Partially too late, see above.

    6 – the appearance of man

    And then comes Genesis 2 and puts man first, before the creation of all other animals (though woman remains last). May I suggest a celebrity deathmatch?

    Also, still no evolution = descent with heritable modification.

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  11. #11 Nancy Haworth
    Poitou Charentes, France
    August 4, 2012

    I think it is sad that David and Kerry are defending their positions on this matter when it is obvious they will never begin to understand each other’s paradigm. My own view is that the first chapter of Genesis is no more intended to be taken literally and chronologically than Revelation is. That does not mean I don’t think that it is ‘true’. There are many things that appear in the bible that science has taken generations to explain like the part played by Vitamin K , its importance in blood clotting and its sudden spike on the 8th day after birth. Perhaps it is mere coincidence that this is when circumcision is ordered in Genesis. The Judaic laws on hygiene were also way ahead of scientific knowledge – they prevented cross-infection and strengthened the Jewish nation while the ancient egyptians were still rubbing dung into wounds. Even by the 19th century the true importance of what appeared to be tyrranical laws in the bible was not understood.

    Just one last thought for those that think creation and evolution are incompatible: can anyone give a scientific explanation for the bombadier beetle yet, which would have required at least 3 simultaneous mutations in order to exist without exploding?

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  13. #13 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 4, 2012

    My own view is that the first chapter of Genesis is no more intended to be taken literally and chronologically than Revelation is.

    Kerry seemed to ascribe some importance to the exact chronological order and to certain events like the clearing of a mysterious cloud deck; so I responded in kind. If you don’t agree with Kerry, more power to you. :-|

    strengthened the Jewish nation while the ancient egyptians were still rubbing dung into wounds

    Then why did Egypt extend all the way into northern Syria with just a few interruptions till the Assyrians conquered all of Egypt?

    can anyone give a scientific explanation for the bombadier beetle yet, which would have required at least 3 simultaneous mutations in order to exist without exploding?

    IIRC, it’s all explained somewhere on talkorigins.org, with plenty of references to the scientific literature. In any case, all parts of the system – the chemicals as well as the anatomy of the beetle – are very similar to what is found in close relatives of that beetle, and the explosion isn’t an either/or thing, its strength (and the properties of its products) depends on the exact identities of the chemicals.

  14. #14 Kerry
    Oz
    August 5, 2012

    Saturn’s moon Titan is given as a “precursor Earth”
    It is dark, not because there is no sun, but because there is a cloud deck.
    Genesis says the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. Pre-2005 scientists would argue there ‘were no waters” on the early Earth. Wrong – Earth was oceanic, cold and dark.
    Early Earth was most likely under the cloud deck. Thus when God said “let there be light” He is speaking of an Earth bound observer, not an astronaut.

    And fish and whales came out of the ocean, so too did birds, according to Genesis. This text would have offended earlier readers as the six days offends modern readers. Birds are dinosaurs; dinosaurs came from reptiles which came from amphibians which came from fish. Thus birds coming out of the oceans refers indirectly to evolution.

    The early ocean had no dry land (at least, continents) as Genesis said. The appearance of water on Earth enabled crustal subduction which created the lighter granite, which formed continents.

    The six day symbolic sequence is not quite accurate (as one would expect from thousands of years or oral tradition) but it is remarkably similar to what we know of Earth’s history.
    :)

  15. #15 'Tis Himself
    Mystic Yacht Club
    August 5, 2012

    And fish and whales came out of the ocean

    Precursors of whales evolved on land and then went into the ocean.

    Kerry, you’re trying to make a 2500 year old myth fit reality. It doesn’t work. The Babylonians (the guys who originally came up with the myth, the Jews “borrowed” it from them) made a pretty story about “how it happened.” The myth has the same relationship to reality as Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Sleeping Beauty.

  16. #16 Kerry
    August 5, 2012

    Yes, I know – whales are mammals with a terrestrial heritage. It doesn’t alter what I am saying.
    Whether some guy (or gal) in Babylon or Palestine wrote the original account doesn’t matter either (Jews are Semites, like most Babylonians were – and hail from the same place.)
    Genesis is a symbolic, religious account, which accords broadly with the known facts of the evolution of the Earth.

    As far as I can tell (correct me if I am wrong) but Genesis’ account is the first ever account of life coming from the sea.
    And it also might be the first account of the oceanic planet, too.

    To be truthfully a scientist, or scientifically inclined, one needs to keep an open mind about EVERYTHING.

  17. #17 crd2
    August 6, 2012

    Kerry,

    Your a mess. circumcision was not initially done for reasons of sanitation, so don’t try to pretend it was this break-through in ancient health & medicine.

    “It has been suggested that the custom of circumcision gave advantages to tribes that practiced it and thus led to its spread. Darby describes these theories as “conflicting”, and states that “the ONLY POINT OF AGREEMENT among proponents of the various theories IS THAT PROMOTING GOOD HEALTH HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT.” -wikipedia.org [emphasis mine]

    Some guy convinced a lot of people to let him cut part of their penis’s off because the man who lives in the ‘cloud deck’ told him its was a sleek look and was going to catch on. I don’t know who is more nuts, the guy walking around saying that to people, or the people who agree to get part of their genitals sliced off by him.

  18. #18 Kerry
    August 6, 2012

    ??? I wasn’t talking about circumcision, and can’t really comment on it.

  19. #19 Don
    Warren MI
    August 6, 2012

    “[Look] around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save… [You] have to understand that most of these people are not ready to be unplugged and many are so hopelessly dependent on the system, they will fight to protect it..”

  20. #20 Kerry
    August 6, 2012

    Don, you need to be specific. Most people I meet seem quite rational and capable of making up their own minds.

  21. #21 Nancy Haworth
    France
    August 7, 2012

    I just wanted to apologise to you Kerry for drawing out an unpleasant post which should have been directed at me! It was me that mentioned circumscision and if crd2 would care to read my post a little more closely my point was about the blood clotting aspect and nothing to do with sanitation. There are plenty of other laws that do relate to sanitation and health which have been proved accurate but as your use of so many capital letters suggests you are angry about circumcision and wanted to shout at someone I don’t suppose you would be interested!

    Sorry again Kerry! I am aware how irritating it is when your posts are misread or misinterpreted.

  22. #22 Nancy Haworth
    France
    August 7, 2012

    Thank you David for pointing me to a site that I will find interesting. You maybe thought my comment about the ancient egyptians and their “medicine” was flippant. I was not intending to denigrate a nation nor to deny the achievements of that great civilisation but the practice I referred to was part of the ‘science’ of the day – and obviously not to be recommended! Wouldn’t you agree that science is based on models being redefined or recreated after the present paradigm has ‘exploded’ (as explained far better than I can by Karl Popper.) The egyptians are often quoted as being the leaders in science and medicine of the day but I think it is safe to say that many of the judaic laws, which were to be obeyed but not necessarily understood kept the people healthier – though not necessarily more successful at empire-building!

    As for the bombadier beetle; this is an old argument that no biologist has been able to counter for me up to now. I’m willing to be convinced that understanding has moved on since I last asked the question but I’m afraid your explanation is far too vague to do that at the moment. Why would the beetle require an inhibitor unless it was needed to counter the harmful effects of the initial chemical and why would it require an anti-inhibitor if it didn’t need to reinstate those properties? At what point did it adapt to its environment and evolve this system. As you can tell, I’m no biologist but I’m not asking the questions with any particular agenda or being confrontational. I’ve stated my position clearly (at least I thought I had – some posters don’t read as carefully as yourself!) I do not see an irresolvable dichotomy or paradox between faith and science. I am more familiar with epistomology than practical science but I see faith operating within science and visa versa – they are not necessarily mutually exclusive!

  23. #23 Kerry
    August 7, 2012

    Nancy, I haven’t followed any beetle thread here :)
    but in evolution you don’t go from A to Z. A wing, for instance, was once a leg, and before that a fin.
    And a feather was once an insulating filament, which was once a scale.
    Ditto for your beetle – the components of its famous contraption served other purposes before enlisted in its contemporary arrangement.

  24. #24 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 8, 2012

    Saturn’s moon Titan is given as a “precursor Earth”

    Sorta kinda. It’s fairly similar, but the distance from the sun and therefore extremely cold temperatures make a big difference.

    It’s true that Titan has those clouds of organic matter that form because UV radiation from the sun partially destroys the abundant methane (it’s more abundant than it can ever have been on Earth, again because of the distance to the sun; the inner planets have carbon dioxide instead of methane). It has been proposed that the very early Earth had such a thing, too, till photosynthesis produced enough oxygen to burn that haze down and form an ozone layer instead; like ozone, such organic haze would have afforded protection from UV. Unfortunately there’s no direct evidence on this question.

    Earth was oceanic, cold and dark.

    Mostly oceanic, hot (up to 70 °C), and possibly darker than now, but not necessarily by much.

    The oldest evidence for continents and oceans comes from the very same grain of zircon. There is at present no reason to think that the hydrosphere is older than the oldest continental crust or vice versa.

    Thus birds coming out of the oceans refers indirectly to evolution.

    1) What about all the rest of terrestrial life? All of it came out of the oceans, not just the birds. It’s plain misleading to single the birds out.

    2) You haven’t even tried to address the fact that birds evolved much later than the first land animals.

    The early ocean had no dry land (at least, continents) as Genesis said.

    Again, no evidence.

    BTW, tell me this: why isn’t the moon-forming impact in Genesis?

    The six day symbolic sequence is not quite accurate (as one would expect from thousands of years or oral tradition) but it is remarkably similar to what we know of Earth’s history.

    It’s on average as accurate as other creation myths; and most of the similarity only appears when you know little enough about science and are willing to blithely invert the text of Genesis 1.

    I note that you haven’t even tried to address the contradictions between the two different creation myths of Genesis 1* and Genesis 2.

    * Plus the first few verses of 2.

    As far as I can tell (correct me if I am wrong) but Genesis’ account is the first ever account of life coming from the sea.
    And it also might be the first account of the oceanic planet, too.

    Nooooo. Read more creation myths, especially Mesopotamian ones (if only because they were written down so early).

    To be truthfully a scientist, or scientifically inclined, one needs to keep an open mind about EVERYTHING.

    However, you also need to acknowledge when a hypothesis has been falsified.

    You maybe thought my comment about the ancient egyptians and their “medicine” was flippant.

    No, I ignored it simply because I can’t comment on it in detail.

    Wouldn’t you agree that science is based on models being redefined or recreated after the present paradigm has ‘exploded’

    That doesn’t actually happen often. (And it’s Kuhn who talked about “paradigm shifts”, not Popper, but that’s beside the point.) Usually, one out of several hypotheses turns out to be wrong and is abandoned, or a hypothesis turns out to be just slightly off and is modified to agree with the new data (in addition to the old ones of course).

    I think it is safe to say that many of the judaic laws, which were to be obeyed but not necessarily understood kept the people healthier –

    Evidence?

    Why would the beetle require an inhibitor unless it was needed to counter the harmful effects of the initial chemical and why would it require an anti-inhibitor if it didn’t need to reinstate those properties?

    What Kerry said. It happens all the time that an anatomical or biochemical feature broadens its usage and then narrows it again to something else than the original. This process is so common that it even has a name: exaptation.

    It’s comparable to building an arch: you don’t build an arch, you build a scaffold, then you fill in the arch, and then it turns out you can take the scaffold away.

    Read up on gene duplication, too.

    I see faith operating within science

    Whenever that happens, there are only two possibilities: either you haven’t looked closely enough; or the science in question isn’t science (even though the people who do it may not have noticed).

    Science = falsification + parsimony.

    A wing, for instance, was once a leg, and before that a fin.

    That’s true for vertebrate wings. Insect wings were probably gills instead (…though arthropod gills are actually the top branch of a branched limb).

  25. #25 Kerry
    August 8, 2012

    David
    Thanks for your interesting perspective, especially on the temperature of the first ocean

    Quote – BTW, tell me this: why isn’t the moon-forming impact in Genesis?

    IMO the story of Genesis (remember, Sumer/Babylon etc and the Semitic people who later wrote the bible – were all one) gives us the human story, ie “if you could have been there…” thus there is no space perspective, no molten Earth, no glancing blows from passing celestial bodies, no Big Bang etc..
    To provide, say, a cosmological account would mean teaching maths/science, disrupting cultural norms etc..
    For instance, how do you explain membranes floating in hyperspace colliding to form a singularity which underwent inflation….??????
    In Genesis there are two steps out of sequence, and one repeat. Otherwise its fairly accurate. I don’t know of any other “creation myth” which accords so closely – and that is a statement which is provable/falsifiable.

    When I first read Genesis’ account of the earth being without form and the face of God moving upon the waters I thought, “No!!!!!” We had this notion of a molten, dry Earth. It was those zirconian crystals which changed our viewpoint.
    And when I read that God created life I asked, “what about evolution” but then I tried to read Genesis deeper, and even ask a Rabbi to read it to me in Hebrew. Yes, it says that “God commanded the sea to bring forth life.” And that’s remarkable.

  26. #26 David Marjanović
    August 10, 2012

    To provide, say, a cosmological account would mean teaching maths/science, disrupting cultural norms etc..

    Too bad for the cultural norms. The explicit purpose of much of the Bible is to disrupt cultural norms and institute new ones.

    For instance, how do you explain membranes floating in hyperspace colliding to form a singularity which underwent inflation….??????

    How about “skin” or “sheet” instead of “membrane”, “outside the sky” or something instead of “hyperspace”, “everything together in one tiny hot point” instead of “singularity”, and “blow up” instead of “inflate”…?

    How would you explain all this to your grandma?

    In Genesis there are two steps out of sequence, and one repeat. Otherwise its fairly accurate. I don’t know of any other “creation myth” which accords so closely – and that is a statement which is provable/falsifiable.

    Why do the two creation myths in Genesis contradict each other?

    We had this notion of a molten, dry Earth. It was those zirconian crystals which changed our viewpoint.

    Uh, no, not at all. The moon-forming impact must have left a magma ocean and an atmosphere full of water vapor. Let that cool down for a few hundred million years, and you arrive at the environment recorded by the oldest zircons – continental crust and oceans.

    Those zircons show that continental crust and oceans already existed earlier than some or most specialists used to think. That’s all.

    Yes, it says that “God commanded the sea to bring forth life.” And that’s remarkable.

    I don’t see why it’s more remarkable than some Mayan god forming the first human out of maize and his own blood (as opposed to, say, clay).

  27. #27 Kerry
    August 11, 2012

    Quote – “I don’t see why it’s more remarkable than some Mayan god forming the first human out of maize and his own blood (as opposed to, say, clay).”

    David, yes, we are made of clay. “Clay” in the bible means the earth, we come from the earth and return to the earth.
    Theologians were long offended by this notion, thinking that life a special substance. Only with the synthesis of urea did this begin to change.
    But there is a big difference between a maize man, and humans appearing at the end of a process of geological, astronomical, hydrological and biological processes.
    Mayas – 0, Genesis – 1.

    The bible wanted to disrupt cultural norms of ethics, not the understanding of how the heavens go.

    We don’t know what preceded the Big Bang – there could be an infinity of iterations beyond human comprehension. Genesis simply gives us the account of how the world was created, back as far as your physical body and human perception could take you.

    There are, they say, two accounts in Genesis – not sure if this is really the case. The one detailing the early earth is the one which interests me. the creation of man is interesting because Adam is created in the image of something already existing, and Gensis alludes to other people being in the earth, too.

    I am not sure scientists know there was any water until we had the infall from meteorites. Can’t comment on that – doesn’t change the point though.

  28. #28 David Marjanović
    August 11, 2012

    But there is a big difference between a maize man, and humans appearing at the end of a process of geological, astronomical, hydrological and biological processes.
    Mayas – 0, Genesis – 1.

    Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait. The clay story is the second creation myth in Genesis, not the first one; and in that story, the man is created before all other living beings.

    Don’t confuse the two creation myths!

    There are, they say, two accounts in Genesis – not sure if this is really the case.

    They blatantly contradict each other. It couldn’t be more obvious.

    The bible wanted to disrupt cultural norms of ethics, not the understanding of how the heavens go.

    How did that prevent it from getting the order right? Why does it claim that there were birds before there were land animals?

  29. #29 Kerry
    August 12, 2012

    “Stylistic” (text) theories re Genesis 1 and 2 have long been debunked. Gen 1 is the overarching chronology of the creation of the earth, Gen 2 is the topical account detailing the creation of man. Many texts do this.

    And, without checking, I would presume that Genesis, like other books of the bible, didn’t even have chapter and verse in the beginning.

    It is not necessary to interpret birds arriving before land animals. It tells us that life came out of the sea, and from the sea came fishes, wales and birds (meaning ETCETERA). Shifting onto land doesn’t necessarily mean colonization here happened after birds, it simply tells us that the ocean is the cradle of life.

  30. #30 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    August 13, 2012

    Gen 1 is the overarching chronology of the creation of the earth, Gen 2 is the topical account detailing the creation of man.

    Then why do they contradict each other???

    Why does one say “man last”, the other “man first”???

    And, without checking, I would presume that Genesis, like other books of the bible, didn’t even have chapter and verse in the beginning.

    *eyeroll* Of course not. My point is that it wasn’t a single book in the first place. See especially this.

    BTW, I need to apologize for saying “Genesis 1″ and “Genesis 2″. I simplified; actually, the first creation myth goes all the way to Gen 2:3, then comes Gen 2:4a which looks like it was added by the Redactor, and the second creation myth begins at Gen 2:4b: “In the day that Yahwe ‘Elohim made the Earth and the heavens,”.

    Shifting onto land doesn’t necessarily mean colonization here happened after birds, it simply tells us that the ocean is the cradle of life.

    Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

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