The flowering plant success – INfluence of BEetles
which was the role of beetles in the origin of modern terrestrial ecosystems?
Gymnosperm pollination was a common habit among Cretaceous insects, including beetles, before flowering plants evolved. At the same time, different groups of beetles could have been involved in weakening early gymnosperms with their wood-boring behaviors and pathogen transmissions. Beetles and plants are two important and diverse groups of living beings on Earth today, and their evolutionary history seems to be connected since, at least, the Early Cretaceous.
The diversification and expansion of angiosperms during the Cretaceous produced a rapid transformation of the terrestrial plant communities. INBE ventures in looking for the ecological causes of such turnover. Is is subdivided in three research objectives (ROs):
RO 1: To study the effect of plants–beetle’s antagonisms as a factor that had affected the continuity of the large gymnosperm forests.
RO 2: To define the effect of plants–beetle’s mutualisms as a factor that had favored the evolutionary success of angiosperms.
RO3: To infer the evolutionary consequences of these interactions, between plants and beetles, for both groups of organisms.
Angiosperms are currently the most important ultimate source of food for animals, including humans. In addition, the abundance and diversity of flowering plants has contributed to the abundance and diversity of many other species, including their co-evolved pollinators.
We know now that early interactions between insect and their older gymnosperm hosts most likely served as a driving mechanism for the subsequent success of flowering plants. Better understanding of insect contributions to ecosystem services will improve our ability to sustain them.
I receive funding from the postdoctoral fellowships programme Beatriu de Pinós, funded by the Secretary of Universities and Research (Government of Catalonia) and by the Horizon 2020 programme of research and innovation of the European Union under the Marie-Curie grant agreement No 801370.
At the top is a picture of Passiflora sp. from a garden in Brussels, Belgium (© David Peris).