Richness of plant-insect associations in Eocene Patagonia: a legacy for South American biodiversity.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005 Jun 21; 102(25):8944-8.PN
South America has some of the most diverse floras and insect faunas that are known, but its Cenozoic fossil record of insects and insect herbivory is sparse. We quantified insect feeding on 3,599 leaves from the speciose Laguna del Hunco flora (Chubut, Argentina), which dates to the early Eocene climatic optimum (52 million years ago) and compared the results with three well preserved, rich, and identically analyzed early- and middle-Eocene floras from the following sites in North America: Republic, WA; Green River, UT; and Sourdough, WY. We found significantly more damage diversity at Laguna del Hunco than in the North American floras, whether measured on bulk collections or on individual plant species, for both damage morphotypes and feeding groups. An ancient history of rich, specialized plant-insect associations on diverse plant lineages in warm climates may be a major factor contributing to the current biodiversity of South America.