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Comparative Study
. 2018 Jun 26;115(26):6739-6744.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1802138115. Epub 2018 May 7.

Arthropods in Modern Resins Reveal if Amber Accurately Recorded Forest Arthropod Communities

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Free PMC article
Comparative Study

Arthropods in Modern Resins Reveal if Amber Accurately Recorded Forest Arthropod Communities

Mónica M Solórzano Kraemer et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Amber is an organic multicompound derivative from the polymerization of resin of diverse higher plants. Compared with other modes of fossil preservation, amber records the anatomy of and ecological interactions between ancient soft-bodied organisms with exceptional fidelity. However, it is currently suggested that ambers do not accurately record the composition of arthropod forest paleocommunities, due to crucial taphonomic biases. We evaluated the effects of taphonomic processes on arthropod entrapment by resin from the plant Hymenaea, one of the most important resin-producing trees and a producer of tropical Cenozoic ambers and Anthropocene (or subfossil) resins. We statistically compared natural entrapment by Hymenaea verrucosa tree resin with the ensemble of arthropods trapped by standardized entomological traps around the same tree species. Our results demonstrate that assemblages in resin are more similar to those from sticky traps than from malaise traps, providing an accurate representation of the arthropod fauna living in or near the resiniferous tree, but not of entire arthropod forest communities. Particularly, arthropod groups such as Lepidoptera, Collembola, and some Diptera are underrepresented in resins. However, resin assemblages differed slightly from sticky traps, perhaps because chemical compounds in the resins attract or repel specific insect groups. Ground-dwelling or flying arthropods that use the tree-trunk habitat for feeding or reproduction are also well represented in the resin assemblages, implying that fossil inclusions in amber can reveal fundamental information about biology of the past. These biases have implications for the paleoecological interpretation of the fossil record, principally of Cenozoic amber with angiosperm origin.

Keywords: Anthropocene; Madagascar; amber; fossil record; taphonomy.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Diagram of a resiniferous forest (Hymenaea model) with representation of biota trapped, mainly arthropods. Circles, main biota represented in resin; squares, scarcely represented; colored in dark orange, zones with a high representation in resin; colored in yellow, zones with a poor representation in resin. (AC) Representation of the distance from the tree to the rest of the forest. Artificial malaise and sticky traps are also illustrated to indicate their location with respect to the trees (see SI Appendix for more information about methodology). Note: some species of arthropods would be found in several of the areas established here and their representation in resin will depend on several factors, including their abundance or scarcity in the areas best represented in resin.
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Dirichlet-multinomial mixture modeling for orders collected in the resin and in the yellow sticky and malaise traps.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
Multiple random permutations for arthropod orders collected in the resin and yellow sticky and malaise traps (A). Monte Carlo analysis with random permutations of the three different heights (0 m, 1 m, and 2 m) for the sticky samples at arthropod order level (data from SI Appendix, Tables S1 and S2) (B). Body size distributions of Hymenoptera: Formicidae (ants) between collection methods (C).
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Resin of Hymenaea verrucosa Gaertner (Madagascar) trapping biota and yellow sticky trap. Natural resin bodies operating like yellow sticky traps (chironomid body lengths approximately 5.5 mm) (A and B). Example of resin emission produced at the litter level (C). (Scale bar, 15 cm.) Example of trunk resin emissions due to attacks by ambrosia beetles (D). Example of yellow sticky trap showing insects attracted by a previously trapped comparatively large animal, all recorded in the same assemblage, as observed in some amber records (yellow sticky trap width 7.35 cm) (E).

Comment in

  • Sampling the insects of the amber forest.
    Briggs DEG. Briggs DEG. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Jun 26;115(26):6525-6527. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1807017115. Epub 2018 May 23. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018. PMID: 29793941 Free PMC article. No abstract available.

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