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No. 26: Mar-Apr 1983

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Prescient Evolution

Lately, a fossil moth egg was found in 75-million-year-old sediments in Massachusetts. The egg is positively assigned to the moth family Noctuidae and extends the fossil record of this family back into the Cretaceous. So what? Well, it turns out that Noctuidae family moths have special organs for detecting the ultrasonic cries of insect-hunting bats. The fossil record of the bats, however, only goes back to the early Eocene, perhaps 20 million years after the Noctuidae moths. Since no other insect predators like bats existed, it would seem that the moths developed these special organs in anticipation of the bats!

(Gall, Lawrence F., and Tiffney, Bruce H.; "A Fossil Noctuid Moth Egg from the Late Cretaceous of Eastern North America," Science, 219:507, 1983.) Comment. Do humans have talents that seem unimportant now but which may be useful some day? Calculating prodigies, eidetic imagers, etc.

From Science Frontiers #26, MAR-APR 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss