Darwin Was Right: Wind Causes Insects to Lose the Ability to Fly
By admin - December 10, 2020

Most insects can fly, however, many species of insects have lost this unusual ability, especially on islands. On the small islands between Antarctica and Australia, we have such data for almost all insects.

“Of course, Charles Darwin was aware of the loss of this opportunity for insects on the island,” said Rachel Leihy, Ph.D., School of Biology, University of Monash.

Darwin and the famous botanist Joseph Hooker had important arguments as to why this happens. Darwin’s opinion was insidious and quite simple. According to him, if the insects tried to fly, they would find themselves in the sea. Additionally, during the flight, insects were exposed to the frequent winds on the islands as a hindering factor, while the part of the insects that did not get tired of their frequent flight wings would remain on land and form generations later. In later generations, the law of evolution would be enforced.

Hooker and other scholars questioned Darwin’s view. Also noteworthy is the fact that scholars’ discussions ignored the islands between Antarctica and Australia, which are the windiest places on earth, which in turn confirmed the validity of Darwin’s view.

By observing insects in Antarctica and the Arctic Islands, and using a new set of data obtained, researchers at Monash University have explored all possible options for losing flight in insects, taking into account Darwinian views.

They show in these papers that Darwin was right. No other opinion (suggested by Hooker, for example) explains the fact that insects living on the island have lost their ability to fly.

In windy conditions the process of flying is more difficult for the insects and they expend more energy. Thus, insects stop losing energy in flight and use resources to reproduce.

“It is noteworthy that after 160 years, Darwin’s ideas still help us to study ecology,” said Rachel, one of the paper’s lead authors.

Professor Stephen Chown, also a spokesman for the School of Biological Sciences, added that the Antarctica region is an extraordinary laboratory where we have to explore the mysteries of the world and verify Darwin’s important ideas.