Testing for the effects and consequences of mid paleogene climate change on insect herbivory.PLoS One. 2012; 7(7):e40744.Plos
The Eocene, a time of fluctuating environmental change and biome evolution, was generally driven by exceptionally warm temperatures. The Messel (47.8 Ma) and Eckfeld (44.3 Ma) deposits offer a rare opportunity to take a census of two, deep-time ecosystems occurring during a greenhouse system. An understanding of the long-term consequences of extreme warming and cooling events during this interval, particularly on angiosperms and insects that dominate terrestrial biodiversity, can provide insights into the biotic consequences of current global climatic warming.
We compare insect-feeding damage within two middle Eocene fossil floras, Messel and Eckfeld, in Germany. From these small lake deposits, we studied 16,082 angiosperm leaves and scored each specimen for the presence or absence of 89 distinctive and diagnosable insect damage types (DTs), each of which was allocated to a major functional feeding group, including four varieties of external foliage feeding, piercing- and-sucking, leaf mining, galling, seed predation, and oviposition. Methods used for treatment of presence-absence data included general linear models and standard univariate, bivariate and multivariate statistical techniques.
Our results show an unexpectedly high diversity and level of insect feeding than comparable, penecontemporaneous floras from North and South America. In addition, we found a higher level of herbivory on evergreen, rather than deciduous taxa at Messel. This pattern is explained by a ca. 2.5-fold increase in atmospheric CO(2) that overwhelmed evergreen antiherbivore defenses, subsequently lessened during the more ameliorated levels of Eckfeld times. These patterns reveal important, previously undocumented features of plant-host and insect-herbivore diversification during the European mid Eocene.