Saturday, November 07, 2009

Insect Pollination Evolved Before Flowers

A Probable Pollination Mode Before Angiosperms: Eurasian, Long-Proboscid Scorpionflies. 2009. D. Ren, et al., Science 326: 840-847.

Abstract: The head and mouthpart structures of 11 species of Eurasian scorpionflies represent three extinct and closely related families during a 62-million-year interval from the late Middle Jurassic to the late Early Cretaceous. These taxa had elongate, siphonate (tubular) proboscides and fed on ovular secretions of extinct gymnosperms. Five potential ovulate host-plant taxa co-occur with these insects: a seed fern, conifer, ginkgoopsid, pentoxylalean, and gnetalean

The presence of scorpionfly taxa suggests that siphonate proboscides fed on gymnosperm pollination drops and likely engaged in pollination mutualisms with gymnosperms during the mid-Mesozoic, long before the similar and independent coevolution of nectar-feeding flies, moths, and beetles on angiosperms. All three scorpionfly families became extinct during the later Early Cretaceous, coincident with global gymnosperm-to-angiosperm turnover.