First fossil evidence of leaf‐feeding caterpillars from India and their feeding strategies

Hazra, Taposhi; Spicer, Robert A.; Hazra, Manoshi; Sarkar, Subhankar Kumar; Spicer, Teresa E.V.; Bera, Subir and Khan, Mahasin Ali (2021). First fossil evidence of leaf‐feeding caterpillars from India and their feeding strategies. Lethaia (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/let.12446

Abstract

Evidence of predatory marks on fossil leaf remains provides a unique window into ecological and evolutionary associations of the past, but finding both damage and the phytophagous insects causing that damage pattern in the same fossil specimen is a very rare phenomenon. Normally, caterpillars have little fossilization potential because of their delicate structure, but here, we present the first fossil evidence of leaf-feeding caterpillars, along with their characteristic feeding patterns, on the surface of diverse angiosperm leaf remains recovered from the latest Neogene (Pliocene, Rajdanda Formation) sediments of Chotanagpur Plateau, eastern India. This provides a rare direct insight into past plant-insect interaction, allowing us to identify, with confidence, the relationship between leaf damage and the perpetrator. The present finding also reveals that caterpillar-plant relationships and their feeding strategies seen today also existed during the Pliocene.

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