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Labandeira, Conrad C.; Kustatscher, Evelyn and Wappler, Torsten (2016): Floral Assemblages and Patterns of Insect Herbivory during the Permian to Triassic of Northeastern Italy.
In: PLOS ONE 11(11), e0165205 [PDF, 2MB]


To discern the effect of the end-Permian (P-Tr) ecological crisis on land, interactions between plants and their insect herbivores were examined for four time intervals containing ten major floras from the Dolomites of northeastern Italy during a Permian-Triassic interval. These floras are: (i) the Kungurian Tregiovo Flora;(ii) the Wuchiapingian Bletterbach Flora;(iii) three Anisian floras;and (iv) five Ladinian floras. Derived plant-insect interactional data is based on 4242 plant specimens (1995 Permian, 2247 Triassic) allocated to 86 fossil taxa (32 Permian, 56 Triassic), representing lycophytes, sphenophytes, pteridophytes, pterido-sperms, ginkgophytes, cycadophytes and coniferophytes from 37 million-year interval (23 m. yr. Permian, 14 m. yr. Triassic). Major Kungurian herbivorized plants were unaffiliated taxa and pteridosperms;later during the Wuchiapingian cycadophytes were predominantly consumed. For the Anisian, pteridosperms and cycadophytes were preferentially consumed, and subordinately pteridophytes, lycophytes and conifers. Ladinian herbivores overwhelming targeted pteridosperms and subordinately cycadophytes and conifers. Throughout the interval the percentage of insect-damaged leaves in bulk floras, as a proportion of total leaves examined, varied from 3.6% for the Kungurian (N = 464 leaves), 1.95% for the Wuchiapingian (N = 1531), 11.65% for the pooled Anisian (N = 1324), to 10.72% for the pooled Ladinian (N = 923), documenting an overall herbivory rise. The percentage of generalized consumption, equivalent to external foliage feeding, consistently exceeded the level of specialized consumption from internal feeding. Generalized damage ranged from 73.6% (Kungurian) of all feeding damage, to 79% (Wuchiapingian), 65.5% (pooled Anisian) and 73.2% (pooled Ladinian). Generalized-to-specialized ratios show minimal change through the interval, although herbivore component community structure (herbivore species feeding on a single plant-host species) increasingly was partitioned from Wuchiapingian to Ladinian. The Paleozoic plant with the richest herbivore component community, the coniferophyte Pseudovoltzia liebeana, harbored four damage types (DTs), whereas its Triassic parallel, the pteridosperm Scytophyllum bergeri housed 11 DTs, almost four times that of P. liebeana. Although generalized DTs of P. liebeana were similar to S. bergeri, there was expansion of Triassic specialized feeding types, including leaf mining. Permian-Triassic generalized herbivory remained relatively constant, but specialized herbivores more finely partitioned plant- host tissues via new feeding modes, especially in the Anisian. Insect-damaged leaf percentages for Dolomites Kungurian and Wuchiapingian floras were similar to those of lower Permian, north-central Texas, but only one-third that of southeastern Brazil. Global herbivore patterns for Early Triassic plant-insect interactions remain unknown.

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