Rhyniognatha hirsti is the world’s oldest known insect. It emerged very early during the Early Devonian Period, around 400 million years ago, when earth’s first terrestrial ecosystems were being formed. While Rhyniognatha remains an arthropod of uncertain affinities, several facts are apparent.
Like other insects of its time, Rhyniognatha presumably fed on plant sporophylls - which occur at the tips of branches and bear sporangia, the spore-producing organs. The insect’s anatomy might also give clues as to what it ate. The creature had large mandibles which may or may not have been used for hunting.
Engel & Grimaldi (2004) show that R. hirsti was relatively derived within early insects, sharing many characteristics with winged insects. This could mean that R. hirsti itself was already winged.
PRESENTATION OF THE 2008 CHARLES SCHUCHERT AWARD OF THE PALEONTOLOGICAL SOCIETY TO MICHAEL S. ENGEL/ RESPONSE BY MICHAEL S. ENGEL
Jul 01, 2011; DAVID GRIMALDI Division of Invertebrate Zoology, The American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024, USA IT is a unique...