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Sharp changes in plant diversity and plant-herbivore interactions during the Eocene–Oligocene transition on the southeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

First Author: Deng WYD
Abstract: Herbivore damage patterns on fossil leaves are essential to explore the evolution of plant-herbivore interactions under paleoenvironmental changes and to better understand the evolutionary history of terrestrial ecosystems. The Eocene–Oligocene transition (EOT) is a period of dramatic paleoclimate changes that significantly impacted global ecosystems; however, the influences on plant-herbivore interactions during this period are largely unknown. We identified taxonomic composition of the flora, and investigated well-preserved herbivore damage on fossil leaves from two layers of the Lawula Formation in Markam County, southeastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP), China. Besides, paleoclimate conditions were reconstructed using fossil plant assemblages. The plant assemblage from the latest Eocene layer (MK-3, ~34.6 Ma) was dominated by Fagaceae and Betulaceae, whereas Rosaceae and Salicaceae were the most abundant in the earliest Oligocene layer (MK-1, ~33.4 Ma). In MK-3, 932 out of 2428 fossil leaves were damaged and presented 41 damage types (DTs). The richest functional feeding groups (FFGs) in this layer were hole feeding, margin feeding, and galling. In MK-1, 144 out of 599 leaves were damaged and presented 20 DTs, with the major FFGs being hole feeding, margin feeding, and skeletonization. Generally, MK-3 had a significantly higher damage frequency (DF) and more DTs compared to MK-1. The decline in temperature, accompanied by the mountain uplift during the EOT on the QTP margin, led to changes in plant composition, with a consequent decrease in herbivory quantity and diversity. Our results shed new light on the influence of paleoenvironmental changes in shaping the evolution of biodiversity as well as the ecosystem on the plateau.
Contact the author: Su T; Zhou ZK
Page Number: 103293
Impact Factor: 4.448
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PubYear: Aug 2020
Volume: 194
Publication Name: Global and Planetary Change
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