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Press Release 08-019
Fossil Record Suggests Insect Assaults on Foliage May Increase with Warming Globe

With implications for present climate, new data links past spike in temperature with increased voraciousness of plant-eating insects

Back to article | Note about images

During a warming spike more than 55 million years ago, insects chewed large holes in this leaf.

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum more than 55 million years ago, insects chewed large holes in this leaf.

Credit: Photo by Amy Morey


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Ellen Currano collecting fossil leaves from a site that is 57 million years old in Wyoming.

Ellen Currano collecting fossil leaves from a site that is 57 million years old in the Bighorn Basin, Wyoming.

Credit: Photo by Ellen Currano


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This image was captured as the researchers were pulling into camp after a full day in the field.

This image was captured as the researchers were pulling into camp after a full day in the field. Two tents (one orange, one green) are barely visible at the base of the butte.

Credit: Photo by Ellen Currano


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Approximately one third of this legume leaf was consumed by insects during the PETM.

Approximately one third of this legume leaf was consumed by insects during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

Credit: Photo by Ellen Currano.


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An insect mined into this from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

An insect mined into this from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. For a mine to form, an insect lays an egg within a leaf. After the egg hatches, the larva chews its way through the leaf, forming a feeding channel that is still visible on the fossil.

Credit: Photo by Ellen Currano.


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This fossil legume leaf from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum shows examples of galls.

This fossil legume leaf from the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum shows examples of galls caused by insects.

Credit: Photo by Ellen Currano.


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