Eocene tortoise beetles from the Green River Formation in Colorado, U.S.A. (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae).

Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsChaboo CS, Engel MS
Refereed DesignationRefereed
JournalSystematic Entomology
KeywordsChrysomelidae, Coleoptera, Compression Fossils, Eocene, Paleontology, Polyphaga

The fossil history of leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae) is relatively poorly documented despite an abundance of available material. Of particular interest is the origin and radiation of the diverse tortoise beetles, a derived group within Cassidinae s.l. (=Cassidinae + Hispinae) defined by the exophagous life history and specialized morphology of the immature stages. Cassidinae is also a group with relatively few fossil records that can be assigned with any degree of certainty. Here we report two of the oldest definitive tortoise beetle fossils, Eosacantha delocranioides gen.n. et sp.n. and Denaeaspis chelonopsis gen.n. et sp.n., from the Eocene Green River Formation (ca. 47 million years old) in northwestern Colorado, U.S.A. Owing to the fine level of preservation, many important features can be observed and are coded into the recent cladistic analysis for the subfamily. Phylogenetic analysis highlights that both genera have affinities with modern lineages, one restricted to the Old World and the other restricted to the Neotropics. Although Cassidinae as a whole extend into the Cretaceous, the available information suggests that the tortoise beetles perhaps originated and diversified during the Early Tertiary. As such, the morphological and biological transitions from the leaf-mining hispiforms to the distinctive tortoise-like cassidiforms, with their elaborate defensive larval shields and other unique behaviours, probably took place during the latest Paleocene or earliest Eocene. These Green River fossils are the oldest yet to document the specialized morphology associated with the transition in cassidine feeding and immature biology.

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