Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History Washington, District of Columbia
Florivory occurs worldwide in modern angiosperms and is associated with pollen and nectar consumption. However, florivory remains unrecorded from fossil flowers since their Early Cretaceous appearance, providing potential for assessing the pollinator fauna of early angiosperms. We test hypotheses that earliest angiosperms were pollinated by a diverse insect fauna by evaluating 7858 plants from seven localities of the 103 million-year-old latest Albian Dakota Formation from midcontinental North America, for which 645 specimens (8.2%) were flowers or inflorescences. Well-preserved specimens were classified into 32 morphotypes, nine of which displayed 207 instances of damage from 11 insect damage types (DTs) by the four functional feeding groups of hole feeding, margin feeding, surface feeding, and piercing and sucking. We assessed the same DTs inflicted by known florivores on modern flowers that also are their pollinators and associated seven insect mouthpart types causing such damage. The Dakota florivore–pollinator community exhibited a local pattern at the Braun’s Ranch locality of Flower Morphotypes 4 and 5 having piercing-and-sucking as dominant and margin feeding as minor interactions, whereas Dakotanthus cordiformis at the Rose Creek I and II localities had an opposite pattern. We found no evidence for nectar robbing although 71.4% of hole feeding occurred on lower portions of petals. These data support rapid emergence on early angiosperms of florivore and associated pollinator guilds expressed at both the local and regional community levels. Because important gaps in early angiosperm remain, other compression–impression deposits of the Early Cretaceous interval 125–90 million years ago need exploration.