Decoupled Plant and Insect Diversity After the End-Cretaceous Extinction

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Science  25 Aug 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5790, pp. 1112-1115
DOI: 10.1126/science.1129569

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Food web recovery from mass extinction is poorly understood. We analyzed insect-feeding damage on 14,999 angiosperm leaves from 14 latest Cretaceous, Paleocene, and early Eocene sites in the western interior United States. Most Paleocene floras have low richness of plants and of insect damage. However, a low-diversity 64.4-million-year-old flora from southeastern Montana shows extremely high insect damage richness, especially of leaf mining, whereas an anomalously diverse 63.8-million-year-old flora from the Denver Basin shows little damage and virtually no specialized feeding. These findings reveal severely unbalanced food webs 1 to 2 million years after the end-Cretaceous extinction 65.5 million years ago.

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