When did insects evolve?

Just consult the chart.

Dated phylogenetic tree of insect relationships. The tree was inferred through a maximum-likelihood analysis of 413,459 amino acid sites divided into 479 metapartitions. Branch lengths were optimized and node ages estimated from 1,050,000 trees sampled from trees separately generated for 105 partitions that included all taxa. All nodes up to orders are labeled with numbers (gray circles). Colored circles indicate bootstrap support (left key). The time line at the bottom of the tree relates the geological origin of insect clades to major geological and biological events. CONDYLO, Condylognatha; PAL, Palaeoptera. Dated phylogenetic tree of insect relationships. The tree was inferred through a maximum-likelihood analysis of 413,459 amino acid sites divided into 479 metapartitions. Branch lengths were optimized and node ages estimated from 1,050,000 trees sampled from trees separately generated for 105 partitions that included all taxa. All nodes up to orders are labeled with numbers (gray circles). Colored circles indicate bootstrap support (left key). The time line at the bottom of the tree relates the geological origin of insect clades to major geological and biological events. CONDYLO, Condylognatha; PAL, Palaeoptera.

Be sure to click on the image to see it at a better resolution!

This is from a paper that looked at the molecular phylogenies, and worked out estimated branch times. I like it. I want it on my wall.

Insects are the most speciose group of animals, but the phylogenetic relationships of many major lineages remain unresolved. We inferred the phylogeny of insects from 1478 protein-coding genes. Phylogenomic analyses of nucleotide and amino acid sequences, with site-specific nucleotide or domain-specific amino acid substitution models, produced statistically robust and congruent results resolving previously controversial phylogenetic relations hips. We dated the origin of insects to the Early Ordovician [~479 million years ago (Ma)], of insect flight to the Early Devonian (~406 Ma), of major extant lineages to the Mississippian (~345 Ma), and the major diversification of holometabolous insects to the Early Cretaceous. Our phylogenomic study provides a comprehensive reliable scaffold for future comparative analyses of evolutionary innovations among insects.


Misof B, Liu S, Meusemann K, Peters RS, Donath A, Mayer C, Frandsen PB, Ware J, Flouri T, Beutel RG, Niehuis O, Petersen M, Izquierdo-Carrasco F, Wappler T, Rust J, Aberer AJ, Aspöck U, Aspöck H, Bartel D, Blanke A, Berger S, Böhm A, Buckley TR, Calcott B, Chen J, Friedrich F, Fukui M, Fujita M, Greve C, Grobe P, Gu S, Huang Y, Jermiin LS, Kawahara AY, Krogmann L, Kubiak M, Lanfear R, Letsch H, Li Y, Li Z, Li J, Lu H, Machida R, Mashimo Y, Kapli P, McKenna DD, Meng G, Nakagaki Y, Navarrete-Heredia JL, Ott M, Ou Y, Pass G, Podsiadlowski L, Pohl H, von Reumont BM, Schütte K, Sekiya K, Shimizu S, Slipinski A, Stamatakis A, Song W, Su X, Szucsich NU, Tan M, Tan X, Tang M, Tang J, Timelthaler G, Tomizuka S, Trautwein M, Tong X, Uchifune T, Walzl MG, Wiegmann BM, Wilbrandt J, Wipfler B, Wong TK, Wu Q, Wu G, Xie Y, Yang S, Yang Q, Yeates DK, Yoshizawa K, Zhang Q, Zhang R, Zhang W, Zhang Y, Zhao J, Zhou C, Zhou L, Ziesmann T, Zou S, Li Y, Xu X, Zhang Y, Yang H, Wang J, Wang J, Kjer KM, Zhou X (2014) Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution. Science 346(6210):763-7.

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