Sunday, April 25, 2010
Prehistoric Bugs in my Garden
Millipedes (Arthropoda: Myriapoda: Diplopoda) and Woodlice (Arthropoda: Crustacea: Isopoda) look like creatures from the past and in fact they are ancient life forms. The body plan of both these groups of animals evolved millions of years ago and they have changed very little since. Obviously, these designs perfectly fit the habitats that these creatures inhabit and Mother Nature has decided to leave them pretty much alone. Woodlice date from around 160 million years ago and therefore walked with dinosaurs, which became extinct 65 million years ago. The ancestry of millipedes is even more impressive. In 2004 a fossil millipede was found near Aberdeen in Scotland. The fossil has been dated to 420 million years ago and is one of the oldest fossil land animals ever found. Humans, on the other hand, have only recently evolved with the first apes dating from 25 million years ago. Will we be as successful as the millipedes? Will we, or our evolved future family members, be around in 400 million years?