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Distinguishing Agromyzidae (Diptera) Leaf Mines in the Fossil Record: New Taxa from the Paleogene of North America and Germany and Their Evolutionary Implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2016

Isaac S. Winkler
1Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, 27695-7613 USA, 2Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, 20742 USA
Conrad C. Labandeira
2Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, 20742 USA 3Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20213-7012 USA
Torsten Wappler
4Steinmann Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie, Paläontologie, Universität Bonn, Nussallee 8, D-53115 Bonn, Germany
Peter Wilf
5Department of Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 16802 USA


Fossilized leaf mines and other traces of phytophagous insects provide a unique window into ecological and evolutionary associations of the past. Leaf-mining flies (Diptera: Agromyzidae) are an important component of the recent leaf-mining fauna, but their fossil record is sparse compared to other mining insect lineages; many putative agromyzid body fossils and traces are dubiously assigned. Agromyzid leaf mines often can be distinguished from those of other insects by the presence of an intermittent, fluidized frass trail that may alternate between the sides of the mine. Here, we describe two new Paleogene leaf mine fossils, Phytomyzites biliapchaensis Winkler, Labandeira and Wilf n. sp. from the early Paleocene of southeastern Montana, USA, occurring in leaves of Platanus raynoldsii (Platanaceae); and Phytomyzites schaarschmidti Wappler n. sp., from the middle Eocene of Messel, Germany, occurring in leaves of Toddalia ovata (Rutaceae). These fossils both exhibit frass trails indicative of an agromyzid origin, and P. biliapchaensis also exhibits associated stereotypical marks identical to damage caused by feeding punctures of extant adult female Agromyzidae prior to oviposition. Phytomyzites biliapchaensis represents the earliest confirmed record of Agromyzidae, and one of the earliest records for the large dipteran clade Schizophora. Plant hosts of both species belong to genera that are no longer hosts of leaf-mining Agromyzidae, suggesting a complex and dynamic history of early host-plant associations and, for the early Paleocene example, an evolutionary, possibly opportunistic colonization in the midst of the ecological chaos following the end-Cretaceous event in North America.

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