The Science of Nature

, 102:14 | Cite as

Evolution of a complex behavior: the origin and initial diversification of foliar galling by Permian insects

  • Sandra R. Schachat
  • Conrad C. LabandeiraEmail author
Original Paper


A central notion of the early evolution of insect galling is that this unique behavior was uncommon to rare before the diversification of angiosperms 135 to 125 m.yr. ago. However, evidence accumulated during recent years shows that foliar galls were diverse and locally abundant as early as the Permian Period, 299 to 252 m.yr. ago. In particular, a diversity of leaf galling during the Early Permian has recently been documented by the plant-damage record of foliar galls and, now, our interpretation of the body-fossil record of culprit insect gallers. Small size is a prerequisite for gallers. Wing-length measurements of Permian insects indicate that several small-bodied hemipteroid lineages originated early during the Permian, some descendant lineages of which gall the leaves of seed plants to the present day. The earliest foliar gallers likely were Protopsyllidiidae (Hemiptera) and Lophioneuridae (Thripida). Much of the Early Permian was a xeric interval, and modern galls are most common in dry, extra-tropical habitats such as scrubland and deserts. Plant-damage, insect body fossils, and the paleoclimate record collectively support the ecological expansion of foliar galling during the Early Permian and its continued expansion through the Late Permian.


Body mass Diet Hemiptera Late Paleozoic Leaves Lophioneuridae Paleoecology Protopsyllidiidae Wing length 



We thank William A. DiMichele, William O. Lamp, Charles Mitter, Jered Karr, and Peter Van Roy for discussions about the ideas presented in this paper. Olivier Béthoux and one anonymous reviewer provided important feedback on an earlier version of this manuscript. We acknowledge the Paleobiology Database as our source data, of which this is contribution no. XXX. This is contribution 275 of the Evolution of Terrestrial Ecosystems Consortium at the National Museum of Natural History.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra R. Schachat
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Conrad C. Labandeira
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Paleobiology, National Museum of Natural HistorySmithsonian InstitutionWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  3. 3.BEES ProgramUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  4. 4.College of Life SciencesCapital Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology & Plant PathologyMississippi State UniversityStarkvilleUSA

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