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.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ll never forget years back when I had a chance to actually watch flies fuck and I realized how wrong the expression was. It was a fascinating experience. There was a big group of them on a table near me and I could approach to within a meter of them without scaring them off. I sat for over ten minutes just watching them get it on. I was able to see specific parts of their mating routine. It wasn’t just fucking, there was foreplay involved.

    Taught me something about not taking simple things for granted. If you look closely, they may not be as simple as you thought.

  2. Crimson Clupeidae says

    Oooh…that’s going to bug the creationists.

    Alright, alright, I’m leaving…..

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Ah, one more piece of solid evidence for evolution for the creationists/IDiots to try to explain away. Let me consult the Magic 8 Ball for their answer….

  4. monad says

    Even more exciting than the timing, for me, is the arrangement of the orders after node 132. This is a group of insects that people hadn’t been able to work out the relationships between with any confidence, even in fairly recent studies.

    Something that’s new to me is the term K-Pg “crisis”. I bet calling it that puts our environmental crisis in some kind of perspective, but I’m not sure which way…

  5. consciousness razor says

    What is “bootstrap support”?

    It has a more specific meaning in terms of the actual methods used here, but as I understand it (not much), the idea is that it’s a way to define how reliable their statistics are for each one of those nodes.

    I don’t know whether it’s about the nodes being organized correctly, or if it’s about the accuracy of their timing (or both or maybe something else). I’m guessing the former.

  6. Menyambal says

    I had a creationist tell me one time that there was absolutely no evidence for insect evolution. I mentioned the 6-foot dragonflies, but he said they were still dragonflies. I mentioned flying ants as modified wasps, and he said wings were intelligent design. Can I get this printed out on heavy stock, suited for rolling up?

  7. pentatomid says

    consciousness razor

    I don’t know whether it’s about the nodes being organized correctly, or if it’s about the accuracy of their timing (or both or maybe something else). I’m guessing the former.

    Yes, you’d be guessing correctly.

  8. robro says

    I too would like to have a poster size copy of the chart (plus the key to the numbers). However, I doubt that it would convince a creationist of anything. The vast majority wouldn’t even notice it. Many would just dismiss it. A few would construct elaborate rationales to explain that it doesn’t say anything about evolution. Beliefs are powerful, subtle, and difficult to change.

  9. johnharshman says

    What is “bootstrap support”?

    If you’re interested in the details, read on. If not, just go with what consciousness razor said.

    First, you resample the data set, meaning that you pick characters (amino acid sites in this case) at random until you have picked as many times as there are sites in the original data set. This new data set is called a pseudoreplicate. You do this many times, say a thousand. You analyze each of the pseudoreplicates in the same way you did the original data set. The bootstrap percentage of a branch is the percentage of trees from pseudoreplicates that have that branch. It’s an index of the degree to which different samples of the data tell the same story; or, to put it another way, how strongly the data insist on their story.

  10. frankgturner says

    @Menyambal # 11
    As far as them STILL being dragonflies, well of course they are. When something evolves from a new form into another it does not stop being the thing that it was. It just becomes a sub classification of the old thing. You might say it becomes a new species when it can no longer breed with the previous species, but at some point species A could breed with Species B and Species B could breed with Species C but Species A and C could not breed with each other. Over time and many generations as Species A and B continued to breed into what we will call Species AB (as it had genetic information from both parent species) and B and C continued into BC, eventually AB and BC could not breed with each other and are considered separate species. They still retain genetic information from the ancestors though.
    .
    If a creationist wants to know why if humans evolved from apes then how come there are still apes, how about WE HUMANS ARE STILL APES !? We never stopped being apes we just became a different classification of ape. To explain it metaphorically, it is sort of like how French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese all developed from isolated populations that spoke latin. Over time the languages spoken became less like one another, but they still retain properties of latin. It is why they are called “Romance” (i.e.: latin based) languages, they are basically sub classifications of latin. It sounds like the “they are still dragonflies argument,” comes from the kind of dolt that expected a latin speaking set of parents to give birth to a Spanish speaking child (metaphorically speaking).

  11. frankgturner says

    @ Menyambal # 11
    Oh and if wings are intelligent design, how come some insects can’t really give themselves “lift’? Many insects (I watched various species of cockroach do this in an entomology class) leap in the air with their feet and use their wings to glide down similar to flying squirrels or ostriches. Sure wasn’t designed very well for them. Intelligent design is just a mask on creationism though.

  12. JohnnieCanuck says

    Thanks for that, tall grass @ 4.
    I looked up Strepsiptera on Wiki. I think I know why I’ve never heard of such an outlandish lifestyle as this. Most people are too creeped out.

    These things would make a real mess out of a bee colony.

  13. Usernames! ☞ ♭ says

    Something that’s new to me is the term K-Pg “crisis”.
    — monad (#6)

    The K-Pg (formerly K-T, before those meddling scientists found more evidence and RUINED the pristine time scale) is a Mass-extinction event (~65 million years ago), when a big ol’ meteor smashed into Chicxulub and caused massive amounts of ash to permeate the atmosphere, worldwide (you can find this ash anywhere in the world, at the same location in the rock column).

    The event caused the collapse of the dinosaurs, paving the way for little fuzzy shrew-like creatures to thrive, evolve and eventually post entries in blogs.

    The other, largest Mass-extinction was ~250 million years ago, which killed significant numbers of insects and most sea life.

  14. opie says

    They are all millions and millions of years older than us. We are mere passing visitors in their world.

  15. lpetrich says

    I like to call K-Pg and P-Tr “disasters”.

    One can see in the phylogeny some results that have emerged from recent molecular phylogenies.

    Insects emerge from within the crustaceans, thus making them land shrimp.

    The antlike habit evolved twice. Termites are sometimes called white ants, but they branch off from among the cockroaches (Blattodea). True ants branch off from among other hymenopterans. Cockroach ants vs. wasp ants?

  16. Amphiox says

    They are all millions and millions of years older than us. We are mere passing visitors in their world.

    Apples and oranges. These are all taxonomic grades higher than species. Comparing their age with the age of our one species is hardly proper.

    There are quite a number of individual insect species that are known to be younger than H. sapiens.

  17. azhael says

    Thank you Amphiox for that, it irritates me so much when people say something like that (and they do it a lot).
    Opie, you should probably be comparing insects with vertebrates, not humans, and in that more apropriate scale we (vertebrates) are actually a bit older than them.

  18. frankgturner says

    @Ichthyic # 17
    I suspected as much, but in that sarcasm he presented the apologetic argument so I presented the counter apologetic argument.

  19. Roberto Aguirre Maturana says

    I´m confused, isn’t Blattodea supposed to be way older than Jurassic age?

  20. says

    Isn’t everything living evolved from a common ancestor? That means humans and any other living species have evolved for exactly the same length of time.

  21. azhael says

    Colin, sure, but we can choose to select specific points in that continuum as a reference.

  22. chris61 says

    Something I’ve always wondered about. Does phylogenetic analysis correct in any way for generation times? It would seem that species with generation times of days or weeks are going to evolve faster than species with generation times of years or decades.

  23. consciousness razor says

    Isn’t everything living evolved from a common ancestor? That means humans and any other living species have evolved for exactly the same length of time.

    No, it doesn’t mean that. “Species” has some kind of a meaning. You could be picky about which one is more appropriate in different cases, but it’s never about “all organisms on Earth back to their last universal ancestor.” Evolution has been happening for a definite length of time on Earth, but that’s not about how long any given species has been around compared to some other species.

  24. astro says

    Usernames! ☞ ♭@21:

    i think monad, like i, was curious about the nomenclature. i’ve never seen it called a “crisis” before. i believe geologists seem to prefer the term “boundary” and palentologists seem to prefer “(mass) extinction (event).”

  25. azhael says

    Actually i ignored the reference to species is Colin’s post. My comment reference lineages, not species.
    All lineages have been evolving for the same amount of time. Each artificially discrete group that we may consider under some definition of species, hasn’t.

  26. johnharshman says

    chris61:

    Something I’ve always wondered about. Does phylogenetic analysis correct in any way for generation times? It would seem that species with generation times of days or weeks are going to evolve faster than species with generation times of years or decades.

    Phylogenetic analysis doesn’t correct for generation times (or evolutionary rates) because it doesn’t have to. Analysis doesn’t just connect the most similar species; it’s much more complicated than that, and it can accommodate very different evolutionary rates. Fast-evolving groups just end up sticking out on long branches. Generation time is one of the parameters that might affect evolutionary rate, but it seems that there are many others too. Fortunately, analysis doesn’t have to consider the reasons for differences in rate, just the results of those differences.

    Now, what you see in this tree, with all the branches neatly arranged along a time axis, is the result of a two-step process. First, you get the tree — that’s the phylogenetic analysis part — and on it those terminal branches will be of various different lengths. Next, you reconcile that tree with time. There are a number of methods, and these folks used a very complex program called BEAST. Oversimplified, it uses fossil data attached to various points on the tree and the lengths of the branches themselves to attempt to smooth out differences in rate and give you the nice, neat figure you see above.

  27. says

    Well organisms in a current species all share a lineage back to the common ancestor, so have been evolving since then. My original comment related to post 22.

  28. consciousness razor says

    All lineages have been evolving for the same amount of time.

    Sure, I guess. It’s not really a lineage (extended into deep time) that evolves though, is it? Still a little confusing to me.

    Another way of saying it is that abiogenesis only happened once on Earth (as far as anybody can tell, of course). That’s fairly unambiguous and not suggesting anything misleading or confusing (about entities like a “species” or a “lineage” for example). The point is that ultimately you’re talking about one thing here. You don’t need to put it into terms of multiple things happening for “the same amount of time” as each other. You could meaningfully compare how long things have been evolving on Earth to how long they’ve been evolving on some other planet, for instance. In that case, you could say it’s the “same amount” (roughly) or that it’s a “different amount,” depending on whatever the evidence suggested. The idea behind saying something like that is not that it’s just a tautological statement about a thing “compared” with itself, but making an empirical statement about two (otherwise non-identical) things.

  29. David Marjanović says

    We dated the origin of insects to the Early Ordovician

    *kneejerk* How was that calibrated?

    …Reading the article (PZ, why no link?) reveals that there’s a 50-Ma-long confidence interval on the date (509 to 452 Ma ago). Downloading tables S8 and S9 shows that the calibration points are rather unevenly distributed across the tree, and many are just about useless; almost none have maximum ages in sight of their minimum ages.

    In short, I can’t exclude the possibility that the first insects lived in, say, the Late Silurian rather than the Early Ordovician. Be sure to check out figure 2.

    I´m confused, isn’t Blattodea supposed to be way older than Jurassic age?

    There aren’t any fossils in this tree (except as calibration points); what this tree shows as “Blattodea” is the last common ancestor of all extant blattodeans-including-isopterans, and the descendants of that ancestor. That ancestor, the analysis says, lived in or around the Early Jurassic.

    In other words, don’t confuse crown-groups with larger taxa that are traditionally referred to by the same name.

  30. mothra says

    There are a few glitches here and there based on paucity of taxon sampling. Siphonaptera should be nested within the Mecoptera (needed a few Australian tax to show this). Ephemeroptera and Odonata do not share a common ancestor (Paleoptera is not a clade but a grade). Or being a lepidopterist, I note that some of the most speciose groups of leps are not in the analysis- Noctuoidea, Gelechioidea, Pyraloidea. Other sources (Grimaldi & Engel 2005 for example) do place insect origins in the Silurian- remember Rhynognatha hirsti suggests far older insect origins.

  31. David Marjanović says

    Ephemeroptera and Odonata do not share a common ancestor (Paleoptera is not a clade but a grade)

    “Ephemeroptera and Odonata are, according to our analyses, derived from a common ancestor. However, node support is low for Palaeoptera (Ephemeroptera + Odonata) and for a sister group relationship of Palaeoptera to modern winged insects (Neoptera), which indicates that additional evidence, including extensive taxon sampling and the analysis of genomic meta-characters (17), will be necessary to corroborate these relationships.”

    And I haven’t read the supplementary information yet – access to it should be open. Remember that Science is an extended-abstract publication; the supplementary information is the actual paper.

  32. David Marjanović says

    remember Rhynognatha hirsti suggests far older insect origins

    How so?

    “The diversification of insects is undoubtedly related to the evolution of flight. Fossil winged insects exist from the Late Mississippian (~324 Ma) (15), which implies a pre-Carboniferous origin of insect flight. The description of †Rhyniognatha (~412 Ma) from a mandible, potentially indicative of a winged insect, suggested an Early Devonian to Late Silurian origin of winged insects (3). Our results corroborate an origin of winged insect lineages during this time period (16) (Figs. 1 and 2), which implies that the ability to fly emerged after the establishment of complex terrestrial ecosystems.”

  33. ChasCPeterson says

    Ephemeroptera and Odonata do not share a common ancestor (Paleoptera is not a clade but a grade).

    Not sure how you presume to say so with such certainty. All phylogenies are (sensu stricto>) hypothetical, and you always need more data. And this analysis recovers Paleoptera (although the relevant nodes, 20 and 134, are supported only weakly, as noted above).

  34. mothra says

    In terms of insect origins, looking at Grimaldi and Engel, fig. 5.9 (for example) is presented as a Silurian origin is the accepted model and in fact, there are two major lineages of insects by Devonian times. This would seem to indicate any notion of a Devonian origin of insects to be in error based on evidence at that time (2010). So, is there additional evidence since 2010 of a more recent origin since G & E indicate an older origin.

    Again a on-stop source treating Paleoptera as a grade rather than a clade, Grimaldi and Engel fig. 4.24 and read the accompanying text with additional references. I think it is interesting that in Ephemeroptera, the MA and MP veins are preserved, MA only in Odonata while MP only in Holometabolous insects.

  35. monad says

    mothra, whether the orders Ephemeroptera and Odonata form a clade or not has been a question under much investigation. This is not the only tree that has put them together; for instance look at Relaxed Phylogenetics and the Palaeoptera Problem from 2013, which does much more thorough sampling specifically to investigate these groups.

  36. opie says

    Maybe I’m not reading the chart right, but it seems to me that there are many species of insect alive today that are much many millions of years older than the species H. sapiens–which has been around for far less than a million years. I didn’t mean any more or less than that.

    What am I missing?

  37. opie says

    Oh. Duh. I get it. The chart doesn’t show species. “Taxonomic grades higher than species.” Thanks.