Jurassic lacewings are like modern butterflies, according to reports on ScienceDaily, Science Shots 3 February 2016 and Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2016; 283 (1824): 20152893 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2893. A group of Chinese and American scientists have studied a collection of fossil kalligrammatids, winged insects similar to lacewings. The fossils were from two sites in northeastern China and one site in Kazakhstan, with dates ranging from 125 to 165 million years ago (Middle Jurassic to Early Cretaceous).

The research team found some of the fossils had “striking similarities” to modern butterflies, including a long tubular proboscis for feeding, and wings with “eyespots” and wing scales. Some specimens also had pollen grains on their faces, and hairy legs that would have been useful for carrying pollen. One of these specimens has wings that are very similar to a living owl butterfly, complete with “eyespots”.

In spite of these similarities the researchers claim the butterfly-like specimens are not butterflies, because butterflies did not evolve until 70 to 80 million years later, and according to Science News, because “the few flowers that existed at the time were the wrong shape”.

According to ScienceDaily: “The butterfly-like insects, which went on to evolve into a different form of insect from the modern butterfly, is an extinct ‘lacewing’ of the genus kalligrammatid called Oregramma illecebrosa. Another genus of this insect – of the order Neuroptera – survives into our modern era, and are commonly known as fishflies, owlflies or snakeflies”.

The researchers suggest the kalligrammatids fed on an extinct order of seed plants called bennettitales. The Science News article went on to state: “When flowering plants took over about 100 million years ago, both the kalligrammatids and the plants they fed on went extinct. Butterflies and tube-shaped flowers arose together about 50 million years later, showing how new players can evolve to fill ancient roles”.

The scientists claim the similarity of these fossils with modern butterflies is an example of convergent evolution. They wrote in their report: “We mapped the evolution of specific traits onto a kalligrammatid phylogeny and discovered that these extinct lacewings convergently evolved wing eyespots that possibly contained melanin, and wing scales, elongate tubular proboscides, similar feeding styles, and seed–plant associations, similar to butterflies”.

Science Shots, ScienceDaily, RSPB article

Editorial Comment: A word of caution: even if we accept the claim these fossil insects are not butterflies, honesty demands we admit they are not like living lacewings either. Present day lacewings have transparent wings similar to dragonflies, without scales or pigment, but these fossils were sufficiently well preserved for researchers to find scales and identify pigmented patterns like eye spots in some of them. Modern day lacewings also have mandibles (jaws) for feeding. Some feed on honeydew and pollen, but they feed mainly on sap sucking insects such as aphids and scale insects, and are therefore useful to have in the garden.

Any claim that these fossil insects evolved into modern lacewings is a pure faith belief to fit into evolution. No-one has observed these creatures with their feeding tubes and butterfly-like wings with eyespots and scales change into anything different. If it is true they no longer exist, it could more simply mean they have died out. (The photos with the ScienceShots article show the similarity of one of the fossils with a living owl butterfly. Click on link above to see this.)

When the research team drew up their phylogeny, i.e. their evolutionary tree, they did not discover anything new. They simply fitted these fossils and living lacewings and butterflies into their already believed evolutionary tree system.

The concept that butterflies with long proboscises evolved at the same time as the tube shaped flowers they could use their proboscises in is also a belief by blind faith. Darwin and his contemporaries may have had an inkling of an excuse for believing this possible in their ignorance, as the study of genetics was just beginning, but modern day biologists have no excuse. There is no way the shape of a flower, or its production of nectar and pollen, can change an insect’s genes so that the insect has a proboscis instead of jaws.

In the Occam’s Razor world of science where history tells us that the simplest explanation is 99% of the time the right one, note well it is much simpler to believe the Creator made both flowers and nectar-feeding insects so they could fit together. The extinct plants bennettitales, seem to have had a cone shaped reproductive structure that may have produced nectar, so these fossilised insects may have fed from them, but Genesis tells us God made all the different kinds of plants on Day 3, including flowering ones, ready for butterflies and other creatures to feed from them and to collect and deliver pollen, when they arrived on Days 5 and 6. Occam’s Razor wins again! (Ref. Lepidoptera, Neuroptera, diet, phylogenetics)

Evidence News vol 16, No.2
10 February 2016
Creation Research Australia