, Volume 96, Issue 6, pp 703–712 | Cite as

Direct and indirect fossil records of megachilid bees from the Paleogene of Central Europe (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae)

  • Sonja WedmannEmail author
  • Torsten Wappler
  • Michael S. Engel
Original Paper


Aside from pollen and nectar, bees of the subfamily Megachilinae are closely associated with plants as a source of materials for nest construction. Megachilines use resins, masticated leaves, trichomes and other plant materials sometimes along with mud to construct nests in cavities or in soil. Among these, the leafcutter bees (Megachile s.l.) are the most famous for their behaviour to line their brood cells with discs cut from various plants. We report on fossil records of one body fossil of a new non-leafcutting megachiline and of 12 leafcuttings from three European sites—Eckfeld and Messel, both in Germany (Eocene), and Menat, France (Paleocene). The excisions include the currently earliest record of probable Megachile activity and suggest the presence of such bees in the Paleocene European fauna. Comparison with extant leafcuttings permits the interpretation of a minimal number of species that produced these excisions. The wide range of size for the leafcuttings indirectly might suggest at least two species of Megachile for the fauna of Messel in addition to the other megachiline bee described here. The presence of several cuttings on most leaves from Eckfeld implies that the preferential foraging behaviour of extant Megachile arose early in megachiline evolution. These results demonstrate that combined investigation of body and trace fossils complement each other in understanding past biodiversity, the latter permitting the detection of taxa not otherwise directly sampled and inferences on behavioural evolution.


Insecta Apoidea Anthophila Leafcutter bees Ichnology Biodiversity Tertiary Eckfeld Messel Menat 



We are grateful to Dr. Dena Smith and Erin Leckey, both of the University of Colorado, for providing photographs and measurements of the leaf with leaf-cutter bee damage from Florissant; to Laura Sarzetti and Dr. Conrad C. Labandeira for providing information amply and permitting us to study their unpublished manuscript on Phagophytichnus; to Dr. Volker Wilde, Dr. A. Nel, Dr. J. Dejax for the possibility to study the fossils; and to Prof. Jes Rust, University Bonn, for his encouragement. Many thanks also to the reviewers of this paper for their comments which helped to improve and refine the manuscript. This research has been carried out as part of two projects financed by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, that is, under grant DFG RU 665/4-1 including the post-doctoral appointment of TW, and partly under grant DFG RU 665/3-2 including the former post-doctoral appointment of SW. Further support was provided by the SYNTHESYS Project ( of the European Community Research Infrastructure Action under FP6 “Structuring the European Research Area” Programme to TW. The participation of MSE was supported by US National Science Foundation grants EF-0341724 and DEB-0542909. This is contribution No. 115 of the “Fossilfundstätte Eckfeld Maar (Mittel-Eozän)”.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sonja Wedmann
    • 1
    Email author
  • Torsten Wappler
    • 2
  • Michael S. Engel
    • 3
  1. 1.Forschungsstation Grube MesselForschungsinstitut SenckenbergMesselGermany
  2. 2.Steinmann Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie, und PaläontologieUniversität BonnBonnGermany
  3. 3.Division of Entomology (Paleoentomology), Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Natural History MuseumUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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