Wormholes record species history in space and time

S. Blair Hedges

Abstract

Genetic and fossil data often lack the spatial and temporal precision for tracing the recent biogeographic history of species. Data with finer resolution are needed for studying distributional changes during modern human history. Here, I show that printed wormholes in rare books and artwork are trace fossils of wood-boring species with unusually accurate locations and dates. Analyses of wormholes printed in western Europe since the fifteenth century document the detailed biogeographic history of two putative species of invasive wood-boring beetles. Their distributions now overlap broadly, as an outcome of twentieth century globalization. However, the wormhole record revealed, unexpectedly, that their original ranges were contiguous and formed a stable line across central Europe, apparently a result of competition. Extension of the wormhole record, globally, will probably reveal other species and evolutionary insights. These data also provide evidence for historians in determining the place of origin or movement of a woodblock, book, document or art print.

  • Received September 30, 2012.
  • Accepted October 23, 2012.
View Full Text