Scientists have discovered fossilized insect wings suggesting that the flying creatures they belong to communicated 310 million years ago – 50 million years before the first known insect communications.
Discovered in Liévin, France, the fossils provide the earliest known evidence of wing-based communication in insects, suggesting that beetles may have used their wings to transmit information since the late Carboniferous about 310 million years ago.
André Nel, professor at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris, and his team found the fossil of a previously unidentified species of giant predatory locust-like insects called Titanoptera – the largest of which had a wingspan of more than 33 cm. The team named the new find Theiatitan Azari, in honor of Theia, the Greek Titan goddess of light.
Analysis of the shape and structure of the wing of the long-dead creature compared to modern insects suggests that these plates enabled T. azari to communicate through light reflection or crackling noises.
“Whether these communication systems were used to attract sexual partners and / or escape predators remains to be seen,” states the paper published in Nature Communications Biology.
While both hypotheses are possible, “predators like the Titanoptera might even be vital to communicate, to gain insight into female receptivity and to avoid being viewed as potential prey.”
Whatever the explanation, the discovery shows that sound and / or light communication is “a very old phenomenon”, some 50 million years older than previous evidence.
“This way of communicating with the wings has evolved countless times,” the newspaper said. “These diverse origins suggest that wing-based communication was an important and innovative factor in establishing the deep biodiversity of the past.” ®