Neutron tomography, fluorescence and transmitted light microscopy reveal new insect damage, fungi and plant organ associations in the Late Cretaceous floras of Sweden
Neutron tomographic reconstructions, macrophotography, transmitted light microscopy and fluorescence microscopy are employed to assess the quality of organic preservation, determine organ associations, identify insect damage, and document fungal interactions with selected Santonian–lower Campanian plant fossils from the northern Kristianstad Basin, southern Sweden. Fricia nathorstii (Conwentz) comb. nov., is proposed for a composite fossil comprising an anatomically preserved (permineralized) cupressacean conifer cone and its subtending, concealed, leafy axis (preserved as a mould) in the Ryedal Sandstone. Several other impressions of conifer and angiosperm leaf-bearing axes and isolated leaves are described under open nomenclature. Three cuticle types are described from the non-marine plant-bearing beds in the basal part of the succession exposed at Åsen, but these are only assigned to informal morphotypes pending a comprehensive review of the extensive fossil cuticle flora. Two species of ascomycote epiphyllous fungi from Åsen are established: Stomiopeltites ivoeensis sp. nov. (Micropeltidales) and Meliolinites scanicus sp. nov. (Meliolales). The latter provides an important calibration point for dating the divergence of Meliolales, being the first pre-Cenozoic representative of the order. Various additional fungal remains, including thyriothecia, scolecospores, chlamydospores, putative germlings, and hyphae, are described from the cuticular surfaces of conifer and angiosperm leaves from Åsen. Insect herbivory is expressed in the form of both margin-feeding and piercing-and-sucking damage on angiosperm leaves. The Santonian–early Campanian vegetation is inferred to have grown in strongly humid, mid-latitude, coastal plain settings based on the depositional context of the assemblages, leaf morphology, and the pervasive distribution of epiphyllous fungi.