In a classic test of evolutionary “post-diction” (predicting what should be found in the fossil record), scientists made a bold prediction of what insect ears would look like before the evolution of bats. Believing that the presence of bats, a new predator with sonar, would spur the evolution of insect ears, the scientists predicted that earlier insects would have less-developed ears, or none at all. Then they found exceptionally-preserved insect fossils from the Green River formation in Wyoming, and compared the fossil evidence with their prediction. What was found?
PhysOrg summarized the results that were published in the Journal of Paleontology.1 The abstract of the paper unveils the falsification of Darwinian expectations:
Tympanal ears in insects are important for both intraspecific communication and for the detection of nocturnal predators. Ears are thought, based on modern forms, to have originated independently multiple times within insects and can be found on multiple regions of the body. Here we describe and document the exceptionally well preserved tympanal ears found in crickets and katydids from the Eocene Green River Formation of Colorado, which are virtually identical to those seen in modern representatives of these groups. These specimens are among the best preserved insect ears in the fossil record and establish the presence of ears in two major clades of Orthoptera 50 million years ago. Also discussed and evaluated are previously described insect ears from the Mesozoic and the implications of the findings of the present study for studying the evolution of ears within insects.
PhysOrg dressed up the story in progressive language: “50 million year old cricket and katydid fossils hint at the origins of insect hearing.” But further down, the article admitted, “The fossil ears measured half a millimeter in length, and were virtually identical in size, shape, and position to their modern counterparts.” Yet earlier, the article quoted lead author Roy Plotnick (U of Illinois) clearly stating that they expected the opposite:….
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