No post-Cretaceous ecosystem depression in European forests? Rich insect-feeding damage on diverse middle Palaeocene plants, Menat, France.Proc Biol Sci. 2009 Dec 22; 276(1677):4271-7.PB
Insect herbivores are considered vulnerable to extinctions of their plant hosts. Previous studies of insect-damaged fossil leaves in the US Western Interior showed major plant and insect herbivore extinction at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-T) boundary. Further, the regional plant-insect system remained depressed or ecologically unbalanced throughout the Palaeocene. Whereas Cretaceous floras had high plant and insect-feeding diversity, all Palaeocene assemblages to date had low richness of plants, insect feeding or both. Here, we use leaf fossils from the middle Palaeocene Menat site, France, which has the oldest well-preserved leaf assemblage from the Palaeocene of Europe, to test the generality of the observed Palaeocene US pattern. Surprisingly, Menat combines high floral diversity with high insect activity, making it the first observation of a 'healthy' Palaeocene plant-insect system. Furthermore, rich and abundant leaf mines across plant species indicate well-developed host specialization. The diversity and complexity of plant-insect interactions at Menat suggest that the net effects of the K-T extinction were less at this greater distance from the Chicxulub, Mexico, impact site. Along with the available data from other regions, our results show that the end-Cretaceous event did not cause a uniform, long-lasting depression of global terrestrial ecosystems. Rather, it gave rise to varying regional patterns of ecological collapse and recovery that appear to have been strongly influenced by distance from the Chicxulub structure.