News of the WeekPALEOBIOLOGY

Insect Wings Point to Early Sophistication

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Science  23 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5389, pp. 599-601
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5389.599

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In a report on page 749 on a 320-million-year-old dragonfly from Argentina, an entomologist and his colleagues describe evidence for a complex airfoil, a structure that forces air to move faster over the top of a wing than underneath it, creating a pressure difference that gives a wing its lift. Not only did evolution come up with such sophisticated flying adaptations very early, but it also produced them more than once. Although the ancient fossil structures have the same effect as the airfoils of modern dragonflies, they are different enough that scientists think the two systems evolved independently.