When I visited the Bug Zoo in Victoria, British Columbia, the entomologist who was conducting tours, picked up the largest live cockroach that I had ever seen and mentioned that the cockroach is one of the oldest insects, dating back to the pre-dinosaur era. This triggered a new thought, so I asked her which insect goes back further in origin, the cockroach or the dragonfly. She thought first and then replied: “That is a very good question. I don’t know.”
From fossil records, it is known that dragonflies predate the dinosaurs, as do cockroaches. Apparently, which insect came first was an unsolved problem during the summer of 2013 when I asked the entomologist at the Bug Zoo.
This problem, however, was solved more than a year later in the November 7th 2014 issue of the journal Science, a top scientific journal, when an article appeared on the origin of all insect groups that had just been worked out using the science of phylogenomics. This article, titled: “Phylogenomics resolves the timing and pattern of insect evolution” was published by a team of international contributors, consisting of 101 scientists! Included in this groundbreaking publication was a comprehensive chart of insect origins, that is: for insects that are still alive today.
Yes, we now have the answer to: which came first the cockroach or the dragonfly? It was the dragonfly! Dinosaurs first appeared 231.4 million years ago during the Triassic Period, and the Jurassic Period – of movie fame – with the largest dinosaurs came about 32 million years after that. It is astonishing that dragonflies appeared about 350 million years ago, during the Carboniferous Period, and they are still here. Not only does the mighty dragonfly even predate the cockroach, but the damselfly/dragonfly group, consisting of superb fliers, is older than any other insect group alive today except for four primitive species that crawl through debris, consisting of: Protura (nicknamed coneheads), springtales (Collembola); Diplura (two-pronged bristletales) and silverfish.
Dragonflies have fascinated me since I first saw them as a little child. I later learned that dragonflies are possibly the best fliers on this planet and can hover at a fixed point in the air for extended periods of time and can fly up, down, forward, and backward faster than any other flying insect. They apparently have the best vision of any insect, and with their big eyes they can see you even after they fly past you. Also, they really know how to survive. When I observed a dragonfly examining an area of terrain by flying to different vantage points and observing, I named my book on problem solving: Dragonfly Thinking; since viewing a problem from different vantage points is a technique that I use, as does the dragonfly. Clearly, the dragonfly used it first, probably for food-seeking, mate seeking, and whatever else.
It was only shortly after my book was published in 2013 that I learned a new fact about the Dragonfly. It is the most successful predator on the planet earth, and a group of scientists had just figured out exactly how the dragonfly achieves a greater than 95% predatory success rate, as compared to the deadly shark’s greater than 50% success rate and that of the lion, the king of beasts, which has a comparably meager 25% success rate. So I ended up writing a blog about this. Apparently, these scientists discovered that the dragonfly, an incredible flyer and observer with a tiny brain, has some mental abilities that only large-brained animals, such as humans and other primates have. See “Solving the Problem of Nature’s Drone”: http://bruceoberhardt.com/solving-the-problem-of-natures-drone/ or https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20141016180302-78147131-what-is-problem-solving?trk=mp-reader-card.
There are very few insects that people like. Cockroaches are certainly not in this group, but butterflies, ladybugs, and dragonflies are. I find it fascinating that dragonflies predate all three of those insects. When dragonfly ancestors first flew on the planet Earth, the oxygen content was about 35%, as compared to 21% today, and dragonflies in the Carboniferous Period had wingspans of about 2.5 feet. Today, there are more than 550 dragonfly species, and the largest dragonfly has about an 8-inch wingspan. Yes, dragonflies are smaller now, but they are still here and have seemingly solved countless problems that they may have encountered over hundreds of millions of years. Unlike the dinosaurs and many other lifeforms, they have managed to adapt and to survive. This reminds me of a quote:
‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.’ By Charles Darwin, originator of the theory of evolution.