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DinoFest 2022 Speaker: Dr. Gussie Maccracken

Gussie

Title of Lecture: Inconspicuous herbivores: reconstructing Late Cretaceous ecosystems using plant–insect associations

Lecture Description: Plants and insects are unparalleled in biodiversity and breadth of ecological associations. While plant fossils are plentiful in the fossil record, insect body fossils are often rare and patchy through time and space. However, the trace fossil record of insect herbivory on fossil leaves provides abundant evidence for these inconspicuous herbivores. Dr. MacCracken will discuss how plant–insect associations document the radiation of flowering plants (angiosperms) during the Cretaceous Period (145–66 Ma). Flowering plants overtook most ecosystems in a geologically brief interval of time and now make up the majority of plant life. The fossil evidence of these ecological interactions studied by Dr. MacCracken provide a road map for the diversity of plant–insect interactions we see today.

Bio: Gussie is a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. As a paleontologist, she studies fossil plants, insects, and their ecological interactions, with a focus on the radiation of flowering plants during the Cretaceous Period and the Cretaceous-Paleogene mass extinction. Gussie recently earned her PhD in Entomology from the University of Maryland, College Park.