What killed the prehistoric Giant Insects?
Giant prehistoric insects lived under a terrestrial atmosphere infernally rich in oxygen. Dragonflies the size of birds of prey, centipedes larger than men, and a large number of the first vertebrate amphibians as the race, reigned on Earth about 300 million years ago .
Extraordinary beings like the Meganeura, a giant ancestor of our dragonflies, or the Artropleura, another giant ancestor of the centipede, we know them today because of their ancestral traces left before they became extinct.
But he has asked himself what happened so that they would not continue living on Earth. What killed the giant insects? In order to understand the prehistoric world we must first understand was the terrestrial formation.
How did life begin on Planet Earth?
We must be clear about how the dry earth developed on the planet . First appeared the first super continent called Vaalbará, later emerging from the depths of the oceans was the super continent Ur that probably formed about 3,000 million years ago in the Archaic Eon . Although Ur could have the size of Australia is considered by science the firstborn super continent of the planet.
Around 1,000 million years ago Ur joined other continents that were emerging from the primitive sea, and in this way the continents Nena and Atlantica , together with Ur, formed the great super continent called Rodinia.
With the passing of the millennia Pangea was established as the macro continent. And around 208 million years ago Pangea began to break into two large blocks called Laurasia and Gondwana .
What is the real Timeline of the Earth?
Progressively in time the formation of the first dry lands of the planet or ancient Continents the planetary development would be as follows :
– Vaalbará emerged from the firth of the great and unique ocean about 3800 – 3300 million years ago, and this was the first hypothetical super continent that existed on Earth, assuming that the Earth was formed 4,567 million years ago, in the Aeon Archaic
– Ur came about 3,000-2,900 million years ago, although not bigger than Australia, it was considered a super continent.
– Kenorland emerged 2900 -2600 million years ago.
– Nena emerged 2000 – 1800 million years ago.
– Atlantica emerged some 1800-1700 million years ago. We are at the end of the Archaic Eon and the beginning of the Proterozoic Eon (Neoarcaic – Sidérico).
– Columbia began to emerge 1800 – 1500 million years ago.
– Rodinia began to develop about 1300 -1100 million years ago.
– Pannotia was developed about 600 – 540 million years ago. Here we are in the Super Continental Cycle where the Proterozoic Eon is ending and the Fanerozoic cycle begins (Ediacárico – Cambrian).
– Pangea was configured around 450-350 million years ago.
– Laurasia finally was generated 250-200 million years ago.
– Gondwana began to appear about 250-200 million years ago.
– About 65 million years ago , the African part of Ur separates forming what is now India .
-In the present, Ur is embedded in the continents of Africa, Australia, India and Madagascar .
-In the future is expected the formation of a Pangea II or Pangea last to be established within 250 million years, according to the theory of continental drift that provides for these continental movements.
The background on the future of Pangea II’s formation arises from the proposition that ” the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” the Mormons, formulated that by heavenly revelation their founder Joseph Smith, Jr., was shown the future of the Earth , being able to see a new unique continental union .
In the book of Mormons it reads: ” And it shall be a voice like the sound of many waters, and like the voice of great thunders that shall bring down the mountains; and the valleys will not be found. He will send to the deep sea, and will be thrown towards the countries of the north, and the islands will be a single earth; and the land of Jerusalem and that of Zion shall return to their own place, and the land shall be as it was in the days before it was divided. “
What was the Earth like 300 million years ago?
As we have said we must first know what that geological period of the planet was like. The period corresponded to the super continent Pangea.
If we had to know why it was called Pangea, we should be aware that this word comes from the Greek prefix “bread” which means “all”, and from the Greek word “gea” which means “soil” or “earth”, so therefore, the literal translation of Pangea would be “All the Earth” as the only continent in the terrestrial globe, in the Carboniferous period of 300 ma ago .
It is speculated that the original form of Pangea was ” U ” or ” C “, and that it could have been distributed through the equator , so its climate would be tropical and humid , although in its innermost regions it would be very dry due to the great lack of precipitation that did not reach the center of the super continent.
What killed the giant insects?
Dragonflies the size of hawks, centipedes larger than men and an odd collection of giant insects and amphibians reigned on Earth 300 million years ago . Extraordinary beings that, like the Meganeura or the Artropleura, we know by the traces that they left before becoming extinct. With time this type of creatures were disappearing or dwarfing.
The reasons for its progressive disappearance still remain very controversial for current science and researchers.
Around 358 million years ago the Continents began to unite forming the super continent Pangea. This happened at the beginning of the Carboniferous period, where Oxygen levels in the air were much higher than today, up to 35% more compared to 21% oxygen at present.
In this period trees appeared, but they were giant , capturing carbon dioxide and releasing large amounts of oxygen into the atmosphere created an ideal environment for the development of the Super Insects of Prehistory. In the swamps a very special habitat was created where some insects could become giants measuring up to 2.4 meters in length , such as El Arthropleura , an ancestor of Centipedes or Millipedes .
These invertebrates , the Arthropleuras, could reach gigantic sizes both in their length of approximately 2.4 meters, and in width that could have a few meters more. They had few predators, but it was clear that it was the largest invertebrate species ever unearthed by researchers.
The giant Arthropleura lived from the Carboniferous period until the early Permian period , along the territory that is now known as North America and Scotland, but about 300 million years ago in time. This species was completely herbivorous, as evidenced by the fossilized remains of its stomach.
Another huge insect of that time is the Giant Scorpion, scientifically known as Pulmonoscorpius kirktonensis which literally means “scorpion with lungs “. This gigantic species lived in the middle of the Lower Carboniferous period and the Devonian period about 400 million years ago, and its fossils were found in what is now Scotland. The giant scorpion formed its home on dry land, and it is believed that it reached about 60 cm in length taking advantage of the hunting of smaller insects.
Hundreds of millions of years ago, giant insects were common on Earth , and for example the Meganeura a genus of extinct insects from about 300 million years ago, related to the current dragonflies and a member of this group the M. permiana was first described by researchers in Kansas in 1937 as having a width of more than half a meter. It is still considered one of the largest known insects that ever existed.
The dragonflies of that time were the largest flying insects ever discovered, and a tireless predator that had no competition in the air since there were still no flying reptiles.
While more than a million species of insects live today, truly giant insects no longer exist.
Why did giant insects disappear?
There are two main reasons, although there could be up to three reasons why giant insects disappeared on Earth.
The most important was that the atmosphere had changed. The high levels of oxygen in the atmosphere gave a characteristic dye or sepia color to the sky during the Carboniferous period , but that oxygen also made the air extremely flammable.
It is difficult for us today to imagine one of the many electrical storms that enveloped the immense forests and their inhabitants with great ease during this period, and the large forest fires were commonplace and yet insect Giant Insects thrived in this infernal environment.
But later when the fires and the electrical rains became less frequent these amazing creatures simply disappeared, and scientists today are trying to determine what caused their extinction.
Over the course of millions of years, our planet’s air was warmer, more humid and contained more oxygen . During the Carboniferous and Permian periods, Earth’s air contained 31-35% oxygen, compared to only 21% oxygen in the air today.
Oxygen levels are especially important for insects because, although they do not have lungs, they did depend on oxygen flowing through a series of openings in their bodies called spiracles that connect directly to tissues that do need oxygen.
But there is also another reason why the giant insects disappeared , and this arose as the ancient dinosaurs evolved the ability to fly , becoming prehistoric birds , and feeding on insects, they put the limitation on the large size of insects by cause of predation and competition for habitat.
The oldest known bird is Archeopteryx , appearing about 150 million years ago. Birds proved to be faster and more agile than giant insects. The change in the size of the insects was gradual, and these gradual changes in the size of the insects fit with the progressive evolution of the primitive birds of that time.
Hundreds of millions of years where giant insects were the most common beings on Earth. The decrease of the atmospheric oxygen and the increase of the birds contributed finally to the disappearance of these archaic insects.
A hostile world full of electrical storms that could easily burn the immense forests and all its inhabitants with large forest fires were commonplace and yet large insects thrived. Finally came the disappearance of these amazing creatures, “The giant dragonflies and the huge cockroaches common in the Carboniferous simply ceased to be giants.
Only a large tracheal system could develop due to the higher concentration of oxygen in the air of the Carboniferous period where insects needed smaller respiratory systems and this allowed them to increase in size, but as the atmosphere changed the giant insects had to progressively reduce their size over millions of years of evolution and not all of them survived the changes of 290 million years ago where oxygen levels dropped from 35% to 23% near the current level.
Pangea had already formed a super continent that stretched from pole to pole surrounded by a single ocean , and this new territory was subject to extreme weather conditions , especially in the heart of the continent , where drastic changes in temperature occurred , deserts appeared .
But in the equator the heavy rains allowed the great carboniferous forests to survive during this period of deep climatic changes marked by the monsoons and the warming of the atmosphere.
In this period , a type of fungus appears in the bark of the trees, and this small fungus uses an enzyme to break down the wood gradually, as well as the remains of dead plants and trees that decompose when they accumulate in the soil to form coal.
The fungi prevented the accumulation of carbon in the subsoil so that this carbon began to be released into the atmosphere and the proportion of oxygen in the air was gradually reduced with important consequences for the environment.
How was the Carboniferous Period of the great insects?
The Carboniferous Period the time of the Gandes Bosques de Ferns and the appearance of the Frogs. The appearance of fish during the previous period marked the highest point in the evolution of marine life. From this point forward, the evolution of terrestrial life becomes increasingly important. At the beginning of this period, the scenario is almost ideally prepared for the appearance of the first terrestrial animals.
220,000,000,000 years ago, a large part of the continental land areas , including most of North America, was above the water level, and the land was crowded with lush vegetation ; this was indeed the age of the ferns. Carbon dioxide was still present in the atmosphere but in increasingly smaller degrees.
A short time later the central portion of North America was flooded, creating two great interior seas. The highlands of the Pacific and Atlantic coasts were located just beyond the current seacoasts. These two seas joined at this time, intermingling their different forms of life, and the union of this marine fauna marked the beginning of the rapid and global decline of marine life and the beginning of the subsequent period of terrestrial life.
210,000,000 years ago Arctic seas of warm water covered most of North America and Europe. The polar waters of the south flooded South America and Australia, while Africa and Asia were extremely high.
When the seas were at their peak, a new evolution suddenly took place. Abruptly the first terrestrial animals appeared . There were numerous species of these animals that could live both on land and in water. These air-breathing amphibians had developed from arthropods , whose swim bladders had evolved in lungs.
From the brackish waters of the seas snails, scorpions and frogs crawled on the land. Nowadays frogs continue to lay their eggs in an aquatic environment, and their offspring have at first the shape of small fish, the tadpoles. This period could well be known by the age of the frogs that were the ancestors of the later reptiles .
A short time later the giant insects sprouted for the first time and, along with the spiders, scorpions, cockroaches, crickets and cicadas, soon spread throughout the continents of the world.
The dragonflies were more than seventy-five centimeters wide . Thousands of cockroach species were developed, and some were ten centimeters long.
Two groups of echinoderms developed particularly , and are actually the fossils guides of this era. The echinoderms (Echinodermata) are marine metazoan animals that present a dermatoesqueleto with scattered calcareous granules or juxtaposed calcareous plates. Sometimes, these plates have spines. On the other hand, echinoderms are characterized by their pentagonal radiated symmetry (a body with five regions around a central disk). Starfish, Sea Urchin .
The large sharks that fed on the shell animals were also well developed, and for more than five million years they dominated the oceans .
The climate was still temperate and stable ; Marine life changed very little. The freshwater fish were developing and the trilobites were nearing extinction. Corals were scarce, and much of the limestone was made by crinoids.
The deposits of this primitive coal age are 150 to 600 meters thick , and consist of sandstone, shale and limestone. The oldest strata of this period provide the fossils of animals, plants, both marine and terrestrial , along with much gravel and sediment from the basins. Little exploitable coal is found in these older strata. These deposits across Europe closely resemble those that sat in North America.
Towards the end of this time the land of North America was rising. There was a brief interruption, and the sea covered again half of its previous beds. This was a short-lived flood, and soon after, most of the land had already risen above the water. South America was still united with Europe through Africa.
This time witnessed the beginning of the Vosges, the Black Forest and the Ural Mountains . The remains of other older mountains are found throughout Britain and Europe.
During this period the proto reptile gliders began to develop. They climbed and flew eating insects of those times.
200,000,000 years ago began the most active stages of the Carboniferous period . During the previous twenty million years the primitive deposits of coal were being established, but at this time more extensive activities of coal formation were already underway. The duration of the actual epoch of coal deposit was just over twenty-five million years.
The land rose and fell periodically due to the changing sea level caused by activities at the bottom of the oceans. This uneasiness of the crust, the settlement and ascent of the earth, together with the prolific vegetation of the coastal marshes, contributed to the production of vast deposits of coal , which is why this period is known by the Carboniferous period . And the climate was still tempered throughout the world.
The coal layers alternated with shale, stone and conglomerate. These deposits of coal on the central and eastern parts of the United States have a thickness that varies from twelve to fifteen meters. But much of these deposits were washed away during the subsequent land elevations. In some parts of North America and Europe, coal-containing strata are 5,500 meters thick.
180,000,000 years ago , the Carboniferous period was closed , during which coal had been formed all over the globe – in Europe, India, China, North Africa and the Americas. At the end of the coal formation period, North America east of the Mississippi Valley rose, and most of this section has since remained above sea level. This period of land elevation marks the beginning of the modern mountains of North America, both in the Appalachian and western regions. The volcanoes were active in Alaska and California and in the mountain-forming regions of Europe and Asia. Eastern America and Western Europe were united by the continent of Greenland.
The elevation of land began to modify the marine climate of the preceding ages and to substitute for it the principles of continental climate , less benign and more variable .
The plants of these times were sporophytes , and the wind could propagate their spores to great distances and wide ranges. The trunks of the carboniferous trees used to be of a diameter of more than two meters and often of a height of almost forty meters . Modern ferns are true relics of these past ages.
In general, this was the time when freshwater organisms developed; Previous marine life changed very little. But the characteristic and most important feature of this period was the sudden appearance of frogs and their multiple cousins. As for life , the main characteristics of the carboniferous age were ferns and frogs .
The particularities of this new period were due not so much to the cooling of the earth’s crust or to the long absence of volcanic action , but to an unusual combination of common and current influences that existed from before – restraints of the seas and elevation in increase of huge land masses. The temperate marine climate of times past was disappearing, and the continental type of more severe climate was developing at an accelerated rate.
170,000,000 years ago there were major changes and evolutionary adjustments over the entire face of the earth. The earth was rising all over the globe as the ocean beds sank. Mountain ranges appeared isolated from mountains.
The crust of the earth folded considerably during this period of land elevations. These were times of continental emergence, with the exception of the disappearance of certain land bridges, including the continents that had for so long united South America with Africa and North America with Europe.
Gradually the lakes and inland seas dried up all over the world. Mountainous and isolated regional glaciers began to sprout, especially over the southern hemisphere, and in many regions the glacial deposit of these local ice formations can be found even among some of the upper and later coal deposits. Two new climatic factors came into play-freezing and dryness. Many of the highest regions of the earth had become arid and barren.
Throughout these times of climate change, great variations also occurred in terrestrial plants . Seed plants that provided a better food source for terrestrial animal life that would increase in the future appeared for the first time. The insects suffered a radical change . Rest or hibernation stages were developed to meet the demands of apparent death during winter and droughts.
The frogs reached their climax in the previous age and declined rapidly , but survived, for they could live long even in the puddles and evaporating ponds of these remote and extremely exasperating times.
About 140,000,000 years ago , the first hermaphrodite flowers appeared on Earth , as it had male organs (stamens) as feminine (carpels), as well as multiple spirals of petals organized in groups of three. The current plants are the result of the simplification of that ancestral model of the first. Most of the current plants are the result of the simplification of those 20 million years of floral evolution.
160,000,000 years ago the land was covered with vegetation adapted to support land – animal life, and the atmosphere had become ideal for animal respiration. In this way he finishes the period of the reduction of marine life and those painful times of biological adversity where all forms of life were eliminated.
The end of this period of the long biological tribulation , the Permian period , also marks the end of the long Paleozoic era , which covered 1/4 of the planetary history , that is, 250,000,000 years.
During the long ages when the earth was not capable of sustaining life, before containing an atmosphere sufficiently balanced in oxygen to support higher terrestrial animals , at that time the Earth could only maintain giant insects and amphibians in primary development , for then the sea protected and nourished the primitive life of the kingdom. At this moment, the biological biodiversity of the sea is progressively diminishing giving way to the second stage of evolution that is unfolding on Earth the Primitive Age of the Reptiles .
140,000,000 years ago , two sudden appearances coincided: the first flowers on the planet, and fully developed reptiles, after the brief duration of the two pre-reptilian ancestors that had developed in Africa during the previous era.
These reptiles evolved rapidly as dinosaurs-reptiles , crocodiles, scaly reptiles, marine snakes and flying reptiles. That caused his transient predecessors to quickly disappear.
Subsequently the herbivorous reptiles were developed and with the passage of time several million years later, the first non-placental mammals appeared.
120,000,000 years ago a new phase of the age of reptiles began. The great event of this period was the evolution and decline of the dinosaurs. The End of the Age of the Reptiles.
Much later, 60,000,000 years ago , although the terrestrial reptiles were in decline, the dinosaurs continued as monarchs of the land, now taking the lead the most agile and active types of carnivorous dinosaurs of the jumping variety similar to the Kangaroos This period is known as the age of the birds, as well as the age of decay of the reptiles.