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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gigantic flying insects died out millions of years ago due to a 'lack of oxygen' - 4th Aug 2011

Gigantic insects including a dragonfly with a wingspan of 75cm died out millions of years ago due to a lack of oxygen which had made them giant in the first place.

The emergence and decline of gigantic flying insects millions of years ago may have been linked to the amount of oxygen available to their water-breathing young, according to a study.

Scientists studying the smaller modern-day descendants of the huge creatures, which included dragonflies with wingspans of almost a metre, believe they have solved a question which has puzzled experts for more than 100 years by looking at their larvae, which live in water.

They believe that larvae 300million years ago took advantage of the higher oxygen levels available, using it to help fuel their growth to the size shown in fossilised remains found by palaeontologists today.

When the climate later changed and the oxygen level dropped, the larger species' larvae could not take in enough of the gas to survive and the species went extinct, leaving only their smaller relatives alive. Read More