Did Flying Insects Evolve From Land Animals Or Sea Animals? It has long been known that today’s insects evolved from sea creatures, some of which were tiny and others that were not so tiny. However, evolutionary biologists have long debated over the true origin of modern winged insects. Up until recently, it could not be determined whether winged insects evolved from land animals or sea animals. For the most part, it was agreed that insect wings evolved from aquatic environments, but now, genetic evidence shows that winged insects likely evolved from land animals sometime after insects emerged from the sea.
It had long been assumed that winged insects evolved from aquatic insects because the two most primitive winged insects, mayflies and dragonflies, spend some of their time within aquatic environments. But this was just a guess, as the fossil record does not offer any direct evidence to support the idea that winged insects evolved from the sea. Thanks to genetic evidence, this long-running debate has now been largely settled. An international team of scientists collected 100 different insect species and analyzed 3000 different genes belonging to them. For the first time ever, this genetic analysis has allowed researchers to create a comprehensive family tree of winged insects that clearly demonstrates which species are closely related. Using this data, scientists were able to determine with relative accuracy which primitive winged insects shared common ancestors. In addition to relying on genetic similarities, researchers compared the body structure, eating habits and defensive habits of numerous species in order to help determine the ultimate origin of winged insects. By referring to genetic data of numerous species as well as observable insect traits, researchers have come to the conclusion that winged insects evolved from a terrestrial arthropod. In fact, the researchers were even able to build a model of what this common ancestor of modern winged insects looked like. Rather than using their wings for flying, this early ancestor likely used its stubby wings for gliding through the air after jumping from high points within trees.
Are you curious as to what this early insect ancestor looked like?