Temporal range: Late Cretaceous
This taxon is based on an ichnotaxon, a damaged leaf supposedly caused by an attine ant.
However, the identity of the taxon responsible for this damage remains unclear. Handlirsch (1908) noted that (translated from German): "Irregular, almost semicircular cutouts in a leaf are attributed to an Atta (ant!). As quite similar feeding forms are also produced by many other insects (tenthredinid larvae, Megachile etc. etc.), I think it is very premature to conclude from this fossil the presence of an Atta in this chalk formation." Baroni Urbani (1980) shared this view (although without citation): PRIC & BAYER (1901) concluded from a fossil leaf with irregular semi-circular cuts the presence of leaf cutting ants in the Upper Cretaceous from Bohemia. They even give it a generic and specific Latin name, "Atta praecursor". However, cuts of this sort could equally have been produced by a lot of different (and even more probable) beings like Tenthredinid larvae, Megachile, etc. - apart from many other unknown Cretaceous creatures. Thus, it is obvious that "Atta praecursor" is, at best, worth remaining in the literature just as an example of fertile imagination." However, Michez et al. (2012) speculate that this damage was not caused by a bee: "Note that the trace fossil "Atta praecursor" from the Late Cretaceous of Bohemia (Fric and Bayer 1901) was considered a Megachile trace fossil by Baroni Urbani (1980) but the specimen does not appear to be a bee trace fossil (personal observation)."
Given the age (Ward et al. 2014) and current distribution of Atta and its close relatives, it would seem highly unlikely that a true Atta species was wandering around Europe during the Late Cretaceous. It is much more likely that the leaf damage observed by Frič and Bayer (1901) was the result of some other cause, possibly by some long-extinct and unknowable animal feeding on the leaf or, just as likely, some non-biological physical cause.
|At a Glance||• Ichnofossil|
This taxon was described from the Czech Republic.
The following information is derived from Barry Bolton's New General Catalogue, a catalogue of the world's ants.
- †domicola. †Atta praecursor Frič, in Frič & Bayer, 1901: 167, fig. 8 (damaged leaf) CZECH REPUBLIC (Cretaceous, ichnospecies).
- [Note: ichnotaxon; damaged leaf, supposedly caused by an attine ant.]
- Baroni Urbani, C. 1980b. First description of fossil gardening ants. (Amber Collection Stuttgart and Natural History Museum Basel; Hymenoptera: Formicidae. I: Attini). Stuttg. Beitr. Naturkd. Ser. B (Geol. Paläontol.) 54: 1-13.
- Frič, A. & Bayer, E. 1901. Studien im Gebiete der böhmischen Kreideformation. Palaeontologische Untersuchungen der einzelnen Schichten. Perucer Schichten. Archiv für die Naturwissenschaftliche Landesdurchforschung von Böhmen 11 (2): 1-184.
- Handlirsch, A. 1908. Die fossilen insekten und die phylogenie der rezenten formen; ein handbuch für paläontologen und zoologen. Volume 1. Leipzig, W. Engelmann. (p. 672).
- Michez, D., Vanderplank, M., Engel, M.S. 2012. Chapter 5. Fossil bees and their plant associates. In: Patiny, S. (ed.). Evolution of Plant-Pollinator Relationships. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
- Ward, P.S., Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L. & Schultz, T.R. 2014. The evolution of myrmicine ants: phylogeny and biogeography of a hyperdiverse ant clade (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology, DOI: 10.1111/syen.12090.