Fossil oak galls preserve ancient multitrophic interactions

Graham N. Stone, Raymond W. J. M. van der Ham, Jan G. Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Trace fossils of insect feeding have contributed substantially to our understanding of the evolution of insect-plant interactions. The most complex phenotypes of herbivory are galls, whose diagnostic morphologies often allow the identification of the gall inducer. Although fossil insect-induced galls over 300 Myr old are known, most are two-dimensional impressions lacking adequate morphological detail either for the precise identification of the causer or for detection of the communities of specialist parasitoids and inquilines inhabiting modern plant galls. Here, we describe the first evidence for such multitrophic associations in Pleistocene fossil galls from the Eemian interglacial (130 000-115 000 years ago) of The Netherlands. The exceptionally well-preserved fossils can be attributed to extant species of Andricus gallwasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) galling oaks (Quercus), and provide the first fossil evidence of gall attack by herbivorous inquiline gallwasps. Furthermore, phylogenetic placement of one fossil in a lineage showing obligate host plant alternation implies the presence of a second oak species, Quercus cerris, currently unknown from Eemian fossils in northwestern Europe. This contrasts with the southern European native range of Q. cerris in the current interglacial and suggests that gallwasp invasions following human planting of Q. cerris in northern Europe may represent a return to preglacial distribution limits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2213-2219
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1648
Publication statusPublished - 7 Oct 2008


  • cynipid
  • fossil
  • Pleistocene
  • multitrophic
  • gall
  • oak

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