Genetic Data Clarify Insect Evolution

Researchers create a phylogenetic tree of insects by comparing the sequences of 1,478 protein-coding genes among species.

Using an unprecedented quantity of genetic sequence information from insects, researchers have assembled a new phylogenetic tree showing when these invertebrates evolved and how they are related to each other. The tree suggests that insects evolved approximately 479 million years ago, around the time when plants colonized land, and that insects are most closely related to cave-dwelling crustaceans. The new study, published today (November 6) in Science, also confirms some previously suspected family groupings.



This bolsters my contention that it was the coevolution of insects and plants – because what else were insects going to eat? – that has driven much of viral evolution as well.

Because what else was there to infect? Basically, the only terrestrial organisms around some 450 million years ago were primitive green plants, insects, fungi and bacteria. So insects ate plants, fungi infected plants, viruses in insects entered plants and vice-versa; fungi got involved as well, and possibly even bacteria.

I have speculated on the possibilities here (, but it is pleasing to see new science that reinforces some of what I have been spreading about for some years now B-)

See on Scoop.itVirology and Bioinformatics from

3 Responses to “Genetic Data Clarify Insect Evolution”

  1. Bob Says:

    Today’s “base” insect & terrestrial crustacean groups frequently & primarily eat decomposing organic matter – so they also actually eat bacteria and fungi. Eating live plants (algae) may be incidental to these taxa as well and may have become more important later. Hard to imagine millions of years, but plenty of time for changeover to live plants. But lets not get ahead of ourselves 😀

    • rybicki Says:

      I think the opportunity for exchange of genetic material between kingdoms is way bigger than most people think – and that it goes on all the time. And that viruses are involved, frequently – obviously B-)

      • Bob Says:

        Without much doubt by me. Pretty hard to avoid viruses when you eat ‘crap’ . My point was the first insects probably ate the plant decomposition output of bacteria & fungi long before they learned how to eat live plants. No doubt that everything co-evolved with everything. Millions of years is an unimaginably long time when a SNP can spread throughout a population in a few hours to a couple of years.

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