The fossil insect assemblage associated with the Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) oceanic anoxic event from Alderton Hill, Gloucestershire, UK

Swaby, Emily J.; Coe, Angela L.; Ansorge, Jörg; Caswell, Bryony A.; Hayward, Scott A. L.; Mander, Luke; Stevens, Liadan G. and McArdle, Aimee (2024). The fossil insect assemblage associated with the Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) oceanic anoxic event from Alderton Hill, Gloucestershire, UK. PLOS ONE, 19(4), article no. e0299551.



Extreme global warming and environmental changes associated with the Toarcian (Lower Jurassic) Oceanic Anoxic Event (T-OAE, ~183 Mya) profoundly impacted marine organisms and terrestrial plants. Despite the exceptionally elevated abundances of fossil insects from strata of this age, only assemblages from Germany and Luxembourg have been studied in detail. Here, we focus on the insect assemblage found in strata recording the T-OAE at Alderton Hill, Gloucestershire, UK, where <15% of specimens have previously been described. We located all known fossil insects (n = 370) from Alderton Hill, and used these to create the first comprehensive taxonomic and taphonomic analysis of the entire assemblage. We show that a diverse palaeoentomofaunal assemblage is preserved, comprising 12 orders, 21 families, 23 genera and 21 species. Fossil disarticulation is consistent with insect decay studies. The number of orders is comparable with present-day assemblages from similar latitudes (30°–40°N), including the Azores, and suggests that the palaeoentomofauna reflects a life assemblage. At Alderton, Hemiptera, Coleoptera and Orthoptera are the commonest (56.1%) orders. The high abundance of Hemiptera (22.1%) and Orthoptera (13.4%) indicates well-vegetated islands, while floral changes related to the T-OAE may be responsible for hemipteran diversification. Predatory insects are relatively abundant (~10% of the total assemblage) and we hypothesise that the co-occurrence of fish and insects within the T-OAE represents a jubilee-like event. The marginally higher proportion of sclerotised taxa compared to present-day insect assemblages possibly indicates adaptation to environmental conditions or taphonomic bias. The coeval palaeoentomofauna from Strawberry Bank, Somerset is less diverse (9 orders, 12 families, 6 genera, 3 species) and is taphonomically biased. The Alderton Hill palaeoentomofauna is interpreted to be the best-preserved and most representative insect assemblage from Toarcian strata in the UK. This study provides an essential first step towards understanding the likely influence of the T-OAE on insects.

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