Potential pollinators and paleoecological aspects of Eocene Ludwigia (Onagraceae) from Eckfeld, Germany

Christian Geier, Johannes M. Bouchal, Silvia Ulrich, Dieter Uhl, Torsten Wappler, Sonja Wedmann, Reinhard Zetter, Jürg Schönenberger, Fridgeir Grimsson

Paleogene flower-insect interactions and paleo-pollination processes are, in general, poorly understood and fossil evidence for such floral and faunal interactions are rarely reported. To shed light on angiosperm flower-insect interactions, we investigated several hundred fossil flowers and insects from the middle Eocene Fossil Lagerstätte of Eckfeld, Germany. During our work, we discovered a unique fossil Ludwigia flower (bud) with in situ pollen. The ecological preferences (climate, biome, habitat, etc.) of extant Ludwigia and the paleoecological configurations of the fossil plant assemblage support the taxonomic affiliation of the flower bud and an Eocene presence of Ludwigia in the vicinity of the former Lake Eckfeld. Today’s Ludwigia are mostly pollinated by Hymenoptera (bees). Therefore, we screened all currently known hymenopteran fossils from Eckfeld but found no Ludwigia pollen adhering to any of the specimens. On the contrary, we discovered Ludwigia pollen adhering to two different groups of Coleoptera (beetles). Our study suggests that during the Eocene of Europe, Ludwigia flowers were visited and probably pollinated by beetles and over time there was a shift in primary flower visitors/pollinators, from beetles to bees, sometime during the late Paleogene to Neogene.

Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research, Department of Prehistoric and Historical Archaeology
External organisation(s)
Senckenberg Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum, Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
No. of pages
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
105117 Palaeobotany, 106012 Evolutionary research
ASJC Scopus subject areas
Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics, Palaeontology, Stratigraphy
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