Gliders. Bristletails use their rear filaments to help guide them through the air.

Steve Yanoviak

How Did Insects Get Their Wings?

Exactly how insects evolved flight is a heated issue, in part because the fossil evidence for winged insects remains full of gaps. But living insects that are similar to ancestral species could shed light on the origins of insect flight. In a study reported online this week in Biology Letters, researchers report that bristletails, primitive, wingless insects that live in the tropical forests of Peru, can use long, antennae-like filaments extending from their rear ends to help them glide to tree trunks as they jump or fall from forest canopies. These observations suggest that winged insects evolved on land, rather than in aquatic habitats, the authors conclude.

Read the full story on Science's evolution blog, Origins.