By ASHER ELBEIN
A fossil of a cockroach dating to the Cretaceous period, about 145 to 65 million years ago. Insects took to the skies much earlier, but there is scant fossil evidence from the period showing how they evolved wings. Credit The Lighthouse/Science Source
Beetle wings are often hidden. Nestled behind armored shields on the beetle’s back, they unfurl in whirring sheets, whisking their clumsy owners from danger. Beetles don’t have more than two sets of wings — unless they’re in Yoshinori Tomoyasu’s lab.
In research recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Tomoyasu and co-author David Linz genetically engineered beetle larvae with wings on their abdomens, part of an ongoing attempt to unpack one of evolution’s greatest mysteries: how insects gained the ability to fly…