Charles Darwin was right about why insects lose their ability to fly

Charles Darwin was right about why insects lose their ability to fly

Most insects can fly.

Yet numerous species have lost that extraordinary ability, especially on the islands.

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

Flies are walking, moths are crawling.

“Of course, Charles Darwin was aware of this wing-losing habit of island insects,” said Rachel Leahy, a PhD candidate at Monash University School of Biological Sciences.

“He and the famous botanist Joseph Hooker had a considerable argument as to why this was happening. Darwin’s position was deceptively simple. If you fly, you’re out of the ocean.

But since Hooker expressed his skepticism, there have been many other scientists.

In short, they simply claim that Darwin misunderstood it.

Yet all of these discussions ignore the brief location of the air loss – those ‘sub-Antarctic’ islands. Lying in the ‘roaring forties’ and the ‘furious fifties’, they are some of the windiest places on earth.

“If Darwin really misunderstood, the wind would in no way explain why so many insects have lost the ability to fly on these islands,” Rachel said.

Using large, new databases on insects from the sub-Antarctic and Arctic islands, Monash University researchers studied every idea proposed to calculate air loss in insects, including Darwin’s wind idea.

Reports today Activities of the Royal Society b, They show that Darwin is perfect for these ‘very windy places’. None of the conventional ideas (such as those proposed by Hooker) explain the extent of air loss in sub-Antarctic insects, but Darwin’s idea does not. Although in a slightly different form, according to modern ideas about how air loss actually develops.

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Windy conditions make the flight of insects very difficult and energetic. Thus, insects stop investing in aircraft and its expensive basic machinery (wings, wing muscles) and divert resources to breeding.

“Even 160 years later, Darwin’s ideas are significant in bringing insight into the environment,” said Rachel, the primary author of the article.

The Antarctic region is an extraordinary laboratory in which Professor Stevenson owns to solve some of the world’s most enduring mysteries and to test some of its most important ideas.

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About the Author: Cary Douglas

Cary Douglas is a reporter who covers everything from oil trading to China's biggest conglomerates and technology companies. Originally from Chicago, he is a graduate of New York University's business and economic reporting program.

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