September 23, 2007 | David F. Coppedge

Early Beetle Was Armed

According to Live Science, a beetle preserved in amber, dated at 100 million years old, was caught in the act of using chemical warfare.  “Soldier beetles” capable of this kind of advanced defense system were not thought to have evolved till 60 million years later.
    This article contains several statements worthy of the Stupid Evolution Quote of the Week prize:

The discovery of a bug that roamed with the dinosaurs has shown that insects were equipped with chemical weapons much earlier than thought….
    ….the beetle fired an acidic repellent at the attacker—providing researchers with a frozen glimpse of a 100 million-year-old battle for survival.
    What’s even more remarkable, he says, is that this finding pushes back the known existence of this type of beetle by about 60 million years, making it the earliest fossil record of chemical weaponry in animals….
    ….the researchers concluded that the insect was most likely a member of an extinct soldier beetle species which was an ancestor to modern soldier beetles that pack similar kinds of ammunition….
    “That this type of defense has been preserved through 100 million years of evolution is evidence that it works pretty well.”

These quotes satisfy the prize criteria by: (1) attributing complex structures to evolution without explaining how they evolved (i.e., telling a just-so story), and (2) holding to evolutionary dating schemes even though the claim pushes the origin of the complex structure further back in time.

Student Exercise:  Try rewriting the LiveScience article without the evolutionary spin.  Describe what was observed.  Include facts that are remarkable and interesting, but keep the evidence open to other interpretations that do not simply assume evolution (including the millions-of-years dates).

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