Tiny insects flying

Featherwing beetles are the world’s smallest beetles – less than 0.4mm long.  They are named featherwing because their wings consist of bristles rather than a solid sheet of tissue as in other flying insects.  The individual bristles have outgrowths giving them a brushlike appearance and their wings are folded under a pair of wing cases, called elytra, when they are not flying. 

The featherlike wings are very light, but can they produce enough force for active flying?  For an insect this small active flight in air is hard work.  It was believed these tiny creatures were simply carried along by air currents, but they can actually fly at the same speed and accelerations as insects three times their size. 

An international team of scientists have studied their flight using high speed photography and analysed the movement of both wings and elytra.  They found the beetles had a “novel flight style” that was very effective at producing aerodynamic force and stability.  The beetle twists the wings as they move through each cycle of flapping, so that they follow a figure of eight path.  At the top and bottom of each upstroke and downstroke the wingtips touch each other before reversing the movement.  This manoeuvre is called “clap and fling” and gives the movement extra force.  Also, at this size air tends to stick to the ends of bristles, rather than pass between them, so the wings act like the feathers of a bird, not letting air through them.

At the same time as the wings move through this cycle the elytra move in the opposite direction and act as stabilisers, preventing the insect from tumbling over. 

The research team concluded: “These adaptations help to explain how extremely small insects have preserved good aerial performance during miniaturization, one of the factors of their evolutionary success.”

References: Eurekalert 19 January 2022; Outside JEB 31 March 2022; Nature Video, 19 January 2022; Nature 19 January 2022, doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-04303-7.

Editorial Comment: What these scientists have found are the design features that enable this tiny creature to fly.  The wing structure and flying method of this beetle cannot be explained by adjustments of a larger beetle’s wings and flying method.  If featherwing beetles did not already have these wings and this method of flying they would not survive. 

Also note the assumption that this beetle is the result of a process of miniaturisation from another beetle.  As these scientists found out, simply shrinking a “normal” beetle will not produce a featherwing beetle.  There is no evidence this beetle was ever any other kind of beetle.  This study clearly shows featherwing beetles are unique kinds, well designed to fly at this miniature scale.  These scientists and all who read their report are without excuse for failing to recognise the evidence of creative design and creation according to their kind, just as Genesis says.

And yes – this is another evolutionist misuse of the word adaption which is the built-in ability to adjust already existing structures and/or functions to cope with changes in the environment.

Creation Research News 13 April 2022

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