Thursday, 30 August 2007 - 11:10 AM

Herbivory in Antarctic fossil forests: Evolutionary and palaeoclimatic significance

Claire M. McDonald1, J. E. Francis2, S.G.A. Compton3, A. M. Haywood2, Allan C. Ashworth4, Luis Felipe Hinojosa5, and J.L. Smellie6. (1) School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, (2) School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, (3) School of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, United Kingdom, (4) Department of Geosciences, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 58105-5517, (5) Department Ciencias, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile, (6) Geological Sciences Division, British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge, CB3 0ET, United Kingdom

Many collections of Eocene Fossil leaves from Antarctica contain a rich store of insect trace fossils, indicating that insects were an important component of the unique forests that grew in polar regions.  However, insect body fossils themselves are rare and so insect traces provide an excellent opportunity to examine both the palaeoentomology and the palaeoclimate of Antarctica.   Trace fossils of insect activity on fossil leaves from King George Island and Seymour Island, Antarctica have been studied in order to determine the range of insect activity in Eocene Antarctica forests and their use for palaeoclimate information.  Three types of insect traces have been observed: leaf chewing, mines and galls.  They indicate the presence of species of Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera and Lepidoptera that were eating or living in these Antarctic forests.  Comparable living insects and the traces they make in living forest vegetation in Chile are being studied at present.