Charles Darwin was right about why insects lost the ability to fly

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Most insects can fly.

Still, dozens of species have lost their extraordinary abilities, especially on the island.

On small islands halfway between Antarctica and continents like Australia, almost all insects do.

Flies walk and moths crawl.

“Of course, Charles Darwin knew about this feather-loss habit of island insects,” says his PhD. Candidate Rachel Rayhee of Monash University Department of Life Sciences.

“He and the famous botanist Joseph Hooker had a substantive discussion about why this happened. Darwin’s position was seemingly simple. Flying and blowing into the sea. Land to create the next generation. Those left behind are most reluctant to fly, and ultimately evolution does the rest. Voilà. “

But as Hooker expressed his suspicions, so did many other scientists.

In short, they simply said that Darwin made a mistake.

However, almost all of these discussions ignore places that are the epitome of flight loss, the “subantarctic” islands. Lying in “roaring forties” and “furious 50s”, they are some of the windiest places on earth.

“If Darwin was really wrong, the wind couldn’t explain why so many insects lost the ability to fly on these islands,” Rachel said.

Researchers at Monash University have used a large new dataset of insects from the subantarctic and Arctic islands to explain all the proposed flight losses of insects, including Darwinian wind ideas. I searched for ideas.

Today’s report Bulletin of the Royal Society B, They show that Darwin was suitable for this “most windy place”. None of the usual ideas (such as those proposed by Hooker) explain the extent of flight loss of subantarctic insects, but Darwin’s. It’s a little different, but it’s in line with modern thinking about how flight loss actually evolves.

Windy conditions make it more difficult for insects to fly and are energetically costly. Therefore, insects stop investing in flight and its expensive underlying machinery (wings, wing muscles) and revert resources to reproduction.

“It’s worth noting that after 160 years, Darwin’s ideas continue to provide insights into ecology,” said Rachel, the lead author of the treatise.

Professor Stephen Chaung, also from the Department of Life Science, added that Antarctica is a special laboratory for solving some of the world’s most permanent mysteries and testing some of its most important ideas. It was.

Darwin’s handwritten page of “On the Origin of Species” is online for the first time

For more information:
Wind plays a major role in the prevalence of insect flight loss on remote islands, but it is not exclusive. Bulletin of the Royal Society B, Rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or…. 1098 / rspb.2020.2121

Provided by Monash University

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Charles Darwin was right about why insects lost the ability to fly

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