News of the WeekEvolutionary Biology

Chewed Leaves Reveal Ancient Relationship

Science  14 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5477, pp. 229-231
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5477.229

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On page 291, researchers describe a new beetle fossil based not on traces of the insect skeleton but on the distinctive gouges the beetles left when they munched on 11 ginger leaves many millions of years ago. The chew marks of the newly described Cephaloleichnites strongi prove that leaf beetles underwent rapid evolution and diversification more than 65 million years ago, possibly taking advantage of (and perhaps influencing) the rapid diversification among flowering plants occurring at the same time. What's more, C. strongi represents the earliest known rolled-leaf beetle species, hundreds of which today still prefer just one of the ginger- and heliconia-like plants in the Zingiberales order.