Supplementary Data from Phanerozoic <i>p</i>O<sub>2</sub> and the early evolution of terrestrial animals

Concurrent gaps in the Late Devonian/Mississippian fossil records of insects and tetrapods (i.e. Romer's Gap) have been attributed to physiological suppression by low atmospheric <i>p</i>O<sub>2</sub>. Here, updated stable isotope inputs inform a reconstruction of Phanerozoic oxygen levels that contradicts the low oxygen hypothesis (and contradicts the purported role of oxygen in the evolution of gigantic insects during the Late Palaeozoic), but reconciles isotope-based calculations with other proxies, like charcoal. Furthermore, statistical analysis demonstrates that the gap between the first Devonian insect and earliest diverse insect assemblages of the Pennsylvanian (Bashkirian Stage) requires no special explanation if insects were neither diverse nor abundant prior to the evolution of wings. Rather than tracking physiological constraint, the fossil record may accurately record the transformative evolutionary impact of insect flight.