Biology Letters
Restricted accessAnimal behaviour

Ancient death-grip leaf scars reveal ant–fungal parasitism

David P. Hughes

David P. Hughes

Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA

School of Biosciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ, UK

Department of Entomology, Penn State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA

[email protected] [email protected]

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,
Torsten Wappler

Torsten Wappler

Steinmann Institute, University of Bonn, 53113 Bonn, Germany

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and
Conrad C. Labandeira

Conrad C. Labandeira

Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013, USA

Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA

[email protected] [email protected]

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    Parasites commonly manipulate host behaviour, and among the most dramatic examples are diverse fungi that cause insects to die attached to leaves. This death-grip behaviour functions to place insects in an ideal location for spore dispersal from a dead body following host death. Fossil leaves record many aspects of insect behaviour (feeding, galls, leaf mining) but to date there are no known examples of behavioural manipulation. Here, we document, to our knowledge, the first example of the stereotypical death grip from 48 Ma leaves of Messel, Germany, indicating the antiquity of this behaviour. As well as probably being the first example of behavioural manipulation in the fossil record, these data support a biogeographical parallelism between mid Eocene northern Europe and recent southeast Asia.

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