Ellen D. Currano

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Paleoecological studies enhance our understanding of biotic response to climate change because they consider timescales not accessible through laboratory or ecological studies. From 60 to 51 million years ago (Ma), global temperatures gradually warmed to the greatest sustained highs of the last 65 million years. Superimposed on this gradual warming is a(More)
• Paleobotanists have long used models based on leaf size and shape to reconstruct paleoclimate. However, most models incorporate a single variable or use traits that are not physiologically or functionally linked to climate, limiting their predictive power. Further, they often underestimate paleotemperature relative to other proxies. • Here we quantify(More)
The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM, 55.8 Ma), an abrupt global warming event linked to a transient increase in pCO2, was comparable in rate and magnitude to modern anthropogenic climate change. Here we use plant fossils from the Bighorn Basin of Wyoming to document the combined effects of temperature and pCO2 on insect herbivory. We examined 5,062(More)
PREMISE OF THE STUDY The fossil record provides information about the long-term response of plants to CO2-induced climate change. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), a 200000-yr-long period of rapid carbon release and warming that occurred ∼56 million years ago, is analogous to future anthropogenic global warming. METHODS We collected plant(More)
In living organisms, color patterns, behavior, and ecology are closely linked. Thus, detection of fossil pigments may permit inferences about important aspects of ancient animal ecology and evolution. Melanin-bearing melanosomes were suggested to preserve as organic residues in exceptionally preserved fossils, retaining distinct morphology that is(More)
Nearly all data regarding land-plant turnover across the Cretaceous/Paleogene boundary come from western North America, relatively close to the Chicxulub, Mexico impact site. Here, we present a palynological analysis of a section in Patagonia that shows a marked fall in diversity and abundance of nearly all plant groups across the K/Pg interval. Minimum(More)
Paleoecological studies document the net effects of atmospheric and climate change in a natural laboratory over timescales not accessible to laboratory or ecological studies. Insect feeding damage is visible on well-preserved fossil leaves, and changes in leaf damage through time can be compared to environmental changes. We measured percent leaf area(More)
Insect herbivores are considered vulnerable to extinctions of their plant hosts. Previous studies of insect-damaged fossil leaves in the US Western Interior showed major plant and insect herbivore extinction at the Cretaceous-Palaeogene (K-T) boundary. Further, the regional plant-insect system remained depressed or ecologically unbalanced throughout the(More)
The fossil record demonstrates that past climate changes and extinctions significantly affected the diversity of insect leaf-feeding damage, implying that the richness of damage types reflects that of the unsampled damage makers, and that the two are correlated through time. However, this relationship has not been quantified for living leaf-chewing insects,(More)
It is often difficult to interpret plant life form and position within a forest based on fossils of isolated plant organs. Here we propose leaf vein density as a new tool to interpret fossil angiosperm life form, and in particular to trace the emergence of angiosperms as members of the canopy. Angiosperm leaf vein density was analyzed in two tropical(More)
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