January 13, 2018 | David F. Coppedge

Butterfly Evolution Pushed 70 Million Years Before Flowers

New fossil evidence puts the squeeze on Darwinians, making butterflies appear suddenly, with complex mouth parts, before there were any flowers to pollinate. Time to rescue the theory again.

Keeping the evolutionary story consistent is like having to modify a play with the characters constantly making their entry earlier than they were supposed to. We’ve seen that numerous times. The latest is about butterflies (Lepidopterans), the darlings of the insect world. Reporters are scrambling to keep the crown on King Charles (Darwin) in the aftermath of fossil butterfly scales found in Jurassic rock they claim is 70 million Darwin Years older than the evolution script says they were supposed to appear on stage. This means they appeared already as modern-looking butterflies 200 million Darwin Years ago.

Moths and butterflies existed during Jurassic era, millions of years before flowering plants, team reports (Science Daily). “A team of scientists report on new evidence that primitive moths and butterflies existed during the Jurassic period, approximately 50 million years earlier than the first flowering plants, shedding new light on one of the most confounding cases of co-evolution.” It wasn’t co-evolution, though, if butterflies lived just fine for 50 million Darwin Years before the plants they were supposed to co-evolve with first appeared.

Scientists have accidentally found the oldest ever butterfly or moth fossils  (The Conversation): Now researchers in the Netherlands have discovered Lepidoptera fossils that are older than any previously found, proving these familiar insects have been around for at least 200m years,” worries paleontologist David Martill. “The particular type of fossils found mean we have to rethink Lepidoptera evolution.” [insert Tontologism here; see Darwin Dictionary].

The Oldest Butterflies on Earth Had No Flowers to Feed On (Live Science). “Some of the fossils share features with modern moths in the suborder Glossata, which have a straw-like proboscis that can suck up fluids like nectar,” writes Darwinist reporter Laura Geggel. “Given their complexity, and the time it would’ve taken to evolve to have such complex features, these fossils push the calculated age of glossatan moths back by about 70 million years to the Late Triassic ‘refuting ancestral association of the group with flowering plants,’ the researchers wrote in the study.”

Monarch butterfly feeding

Monarch butterfly using proboscis to suck nectar from a flower (Illustra Media)

Darwinians still have some tricks to keep Darwin’s crown glued onto his mummy’s head. They can say that butterflies slurped on gymnosperm sap before the flowers cornered the butterfly market. That could be reasonable, since butterflies can eat tree sap and other things. They could introduce ghost lineages, imagining butterfly ancestors further back in time than they had assumed. And they can use the sidestepping tactic, smiling for the press and saying that the embarrassing situation “sheds light on evolution.”

What they cannot do is show the public a series of fossils showing the gradual evolution of a proboscis, which is admittedly one of the “complex features” that should have taken time to evolve even for Darwinians. The Illustra Media film Metamorphosis shows this complexity it detail, showing close-up footage of the proboscis coming out of the chrysalis as two long half-tubes that the adult fastens together with its palpi (mouth parts). Even more challenging for evolution, this complex structure forms inside the chrysalis from a previous form—the caterpillar—that did not have a proboscis, and fed on different food. The obstacles these facts present to evolutionary theory are explained in the film.

Martill hedged his bets, saying,

If the fossil record can be pushed back 70m years in one stroke, it may get pushed back even further, and we’d need another way to explain the change.

Whatever the trigger for the development of the butterfly proboscis, it was clearly an evolutionary innovation that resulted in phenomenal diversity and added immensely to the beauty of planet Earth.

Insect fossils incl. moth at Florissant Fossil Beds (Darwin date 34 my). Photo by David Coppedge.

The source paper in Science Advances advances another conundrum: these delicate little flying insects managed to survive the Triassic extinction (the “end-Triassic biotic crisis), another tangle in the convoluted story of evolution that unravels if butterfly origin precedes the catastrophe. The authors admit, “the early evolutionary history of these insects remains murky and mired in an exceedingly poor fossil record.” Now that fossil evidence pushes butterflies 70 million years back, does the paper explain how the proboscis evolved? Their answer invokes the “mother-of-necessity” angle in Darwinian storytelling: “Development of the proboscis may be regarded as an adaptive innovation to sucking free liquids for maintaining the insect’s water balance under arid conditions.” This idea should be testable. Go into the desert and see if it evolves on you. If it doesn’t, then death also “may be regarded as an adaptive innovation” to free up the gene pool for humans who happen to evolve straw-like mouths.

About Those Flowers…

An article on Phys.org tantalizes readers with news about “the origin of flower-making genes.” Does it succeed? Only by hand-waving about a “likely” just-so story. First, though, the author claims his turf. The first sentence announces, “Flowering plants have evolved from plants without flowers.

The DAM Law appeared on schedule in the discussion of flowering plants: namely, the phrase “Darwin’s Abominable Mystery.” Look in Science Daily, where the phrase is part and parcel of the story about the origin of flowering plants. It also appears in Science Daily‘s latest confabulation about “How flowering plants conquered the world.” Here’s the story; is it plausible?

Over the last thirty years researchers have shown that the flowering plants have unparalleled rates of photosynthesis. This has allowed them to grow faster and to outcompete ferns and conifers which had dominated ecosystems for hundreds of millions of years. The secret to the metabolic success of flowering plants is their specialized leaves that facilitate faster rates of water transport and carbon dioxide uptake. But how were the flowering plants able to build leaves capable of these high rates of transpiration and photosynthesis?

This new research provides a mechanism. By scouring the literature for data, the authors argue that these anatomical innovations are directly linked to the size of their genome.

This speculation, naturally, does nothing to explain the origin of photosynthesis itself. It makes the beauty of large leaves a matter of accident (the Stuff Happens Law). And what good is an answer that creates more problems than it solves?

Although this research answers a major question, it opens the door to many more. Why were the flowering plants able to shrink their genomes more than other plant groups? What innovations in genome structure and packing have the flowering plants exploited? How have the ferns and conifers managed to elude extinction despite their large genomes and cells?

Evolutionists are not perturbed by having more questions, because it provides job security for storytellers.

The mystery is not abominable. Darwin is. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,” says the Good Book, “But those who deal faithfully are His delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)

 

 

 

 

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