Insect Family Tree Developed By Researchers

Insect Family Tree Developed By Researchers
By U.S. Government [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Insects may give you the creepy crawlies, but researchers see them as an important source of information. One out of every two animals on the earth is an insect, so mapping out their family tree was quite a task.

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About 100 scientists from around the world worked together to come up with it. Their research was published in the journal Science.

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Data from insect family tree

Researchers hope that by knowing more about insects, they will be better able to battle diseases, which are often spread by insects. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that scientists have mapped out the order in which they believe insects developed different characteristics.

They used massive amounts of data about insects genetics and integrated them with evidence they gleaned from fossils. Researchers were then able to determine which species of insects are related by crunching all that data using super computers.

Scientists in molecular biology, insect taxonomy, insect morphology, paleontology and computing took part in the study.

The evolution of insects

Scientists think a relative of the silverfish was among the first insects on the planet, followed by dragonflies, which developed the ability to flying and may have been the very first one they developed. At the time, scientists say plants were beginning to get taller, so in order to survive, insects had to develop wings and be able to fly to reach the tops of them.

Researchers believe insects began by climbing up the very tall plants and then jumping off of them and gliding to the ground. They believe they then began to develop the wings so many insects have today. They say being able to fly not only saved them from having to climb up the very tall plants but also helped them escape predators.

After the ability to fly, scientists think insects developed their sucking mouths, which made it possible for them to feed on those tall plants. Next they think various species of insects began to change from larvae to pupa and adults, just like butterflies and moths still do today.

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Michelle Jones is editor-in-chief for and has been with the site since 2012. Previously, she was a television news producer for eight years. She produced the morning news programs for the NBC affiliates in Evansville, Indiana and Huntsville, Alabama and spent a short time at the CBS affiliate in Huntsville. She has experience as a writer and public relations expert for a wide variety of businesses. Email her at
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