Fossils and Phylogenies: The Systematics, Evolution and Historical Biology of Insects
Abstract: After more than three and a half billion years of biotic evolution on our planet, one group of animals have surpassed all others in terms of their biodiversity. The insects are unrivaled in their numbers (both of species and of individuals), their morphological and ecological diversity, and their great antiquity. The earliest insects appeared over 400 millions years ago during the Early Devonian and were among the first animals to conquer life on land. Since then, they have undergone numerous explosive evolutionary radiations, culminating in their truly remarkable contemporary diversity. These radiations have, for the most part, occurred in response to major events in the history of life and are often tied inextricably to the evolution of plants. The rich and temporally extensive insect fossil record promises to shed significant light on the relationships, evolutionary history and historical biology of the most evolutionarily successful group of animals in the history of life. The 'big picture' of insect evolution can only be realized however, through fully integrated studies of both modern and fossil taxa. This talk will outline research on living and fossil insects and illustrate examples of the important role that insect paleobiology plays in modern entomology.