Al Gentry Award 2013 – Best Student Poster Presentation

Dulce_Rodriguez-MoralesThe Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation presents the Alwyn Gentry Award for the Best Student Papers each year at its Annual Meeting.

In 2013, the Alwyn Gentry Award for the best student oral presentation was given to Ms. Dulce Rodríguez-Morales from the Instituto de Ecología A. C., Carretera antigua a Coatepec 351, El Haya, Xalapa 91070, Veracruz, México.

Florivory on the floral buds and its effect on floral display in Chamaecrista chamaecristoides in a Mexican dune system

Dulce Rodríguez-Morales, Armando Aguirre-Jaimes, José G. García-Franco
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Dulce Rodriguez-Morales

Chamaecrista chamaecristoides plants with yellow flowers in La Mancha, Veracruz. (© J. García-Franco)

Abstract. Florivory has a direct effect on plant reproduction by reducing the frequency of visitors and the number of available flowers. This effect can be greater on plants with sexual dimorphism (i.e.dioecious, monoecious, enantiostily). Chamaecrista chamaecristoides is a pioneer plant from dune ecosystems that has flowers with enantiostily.Flowering is short (15 days) and flowers live for one day. Plants produce a lot of buttons; many of them are damaged partially or totally by herbivores,affecting the floral display and the number of flowers available. Wasps are also a source of damage when they pierce flower buds to extract weevil larvae found inside. We evaluated the damage caused by the wasp and weevil larvae on the flowering of C. chamaecristoides. The hypothesis is that a large number of buttons are damaged this way damaged and this has a negative effecton the number of flowers. During the flowering season (August 2012), was quantified the number of buttons in five categories of damage, distributed in 10 patches located along the beach at Biological Station in La Mancha. Result show that almost half of the buttons have some level of florivory (56% intact, 44% damaged). The chopped damage category was the most frequent (54%), followed by staining category (24%), suggesting tissue oviposition and suction by weevil. The categories hole, cut and dry buttons (4%, 8% and 10%, respectively) indicate the emergence of adult insects of Curculionidae. In general, intact flowers were more numerous than the damaged (75% and 25%, respectively), however, the proportion was similar for floral morph (left: intact 37%, 13% damaged: right: intact 38%, damaged 12%). In conclusion, florivory in C. chamaecristoides reduces the number of flowers available during the flowering period, however, does not changeout crosing opportunities due the proportion of 1:1 is maintained floral morphs. PDF

More about Dulce Rodriguez-Morales´s study

I am very interested in the biotic interactions, in this regard have been conducting research in the Mexican tropics. One of the sites where work is La Mancha Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico. In this place, in the wetland area, assess how the florivory affects the floral visitors and reproductive success of lancifolia (Alismataceae). The findings of this research suggest that there is a negative effect on the frequency of flower visitors, by modifying the original morphology of the flowers, with negative consequences on the reproductive success (fruit set and seed set). In this same place, but in the coastal dunes, in collaboration with José García-Franco and Armando Aguirre, both researchers at the Instituto de Ecología A. C., develop the project in which we evaluate the florivory in Chamaecrista chamecristoides.


Flowers of Sagitaria lancifolia with floral visitors (© A. Aguirre)

Another site where I work is in the tropical rain forest of Los Tuxtlas, Veracruz, studying the relationship between plants and ants, in this project, we describe the morphology and anatomy of extrafloral nectaries of more than 60 species of plants, this project also includes the construction of complex networks between plants and ants species associated with these. This project is in collaboration with Armando Aguirre, Guillermo Angeles (Institute of Ecology A. C.) and Rosamond Coates (IB-UNAM).

Extrafloral nectaries of red color in Heteropterys laurifolia with ants (© A. Aguirre).

Extrafloral nectaries of red color in Heteropterys laurifolia with ants (© A. Aguirre).

I am currently in the Master Program in the Universidad Veracruzana (Instituto de Neuroetología). I will develop a related research about of the prey behavior of spiders (Thomisidae) that mimic the colors of the flowers, and their effect on the reproductive success in three plant species in La Mancha. This project is supervised by Victor Rico-Gray (Universidad Veracruzana) and José García-Franco, in collaboration with William Eberhard (Universidad de Costa Rica).

Spider (Thomisidae) on the inflorescence of Palafoxia lindenii (© A. Aguirre).

Spider (Thomisidae) on the inflorescence of Palafoxia lindenii (© A. Aguirre).

Al Gentry Award 2013 – Best Student Oral Presentation

Maria Natalia UmanaThe Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation presents the Alwyn Gentry Award for the Best Student Papers each year at its Annual Meeting.

In 2013, the Alwyn Gentry Award for the best student oral presentation was given to Ms. Maria Natalia Umaña from Department of Plant Biology & Ecology, Evolutionary Biology and Behavior Program, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan.

Rarity and functional diversity: Do rare tree species occupy the periphery of trait space?
María Natalia Umaña, Min Cao, Brian J. Enquist, Zhanqing Hao, Robert Howe, Liuxiang Lin, Xiaojuan Liu, Keping Ma, Xiangcheng Mi, Jill Thompson, María Uriarte, Xugao Wang, Amy Wolf, Jie Yang, Jess K. Zimmerman & Nathan G. Swenson.


El Yunque rainforest in Puerto Rico (© Roxy Cruz).

Abstract. The causes of variation in relative species abundance have been poorly understood but they are critical to understand the mechanisms driving species coexistence.Hypotheses based on niche partitioning, propose that rare species take advantage of scarce resources that are not exploited by common species;resulting from rare species being ecologically dissimilar from common species.To test this hypothesis, we evaluated plant functional traits as a proxy of ecological performance. Our objective is to evaluate the contribution of rare species to the functional diversity (FD) in different plant communities along a gradient of species diversity. If rare species are functionally dissimilar from common species we expect that they contribute importantly to the functional diversity of the total community. We compiled a dataset comprising six functional traits: leaf area, specific leaf area, leaf nitrogen content, leaf phosphorus content, wood density and seed mass, from eight forest dynamic plots from Asia and the Americas (1055 tree species in total). To evaluate the contribution of rare species to community functional diversity, we performed a trend analysis, where we first calculated a standardized effect size for two FD metrics along the species rank abundance. Second, we quantified whether rare species contribute more to community FD than expected. Supporting our prediction, we found that rare species contributed a higher than expected amount of FD to tree communities with species richness values spanning an order of magnitude. These results suggest that rare species are key contributors of FD in forested ecosystems and perhaps their functioning. Because of their restricted occurrence and low abundance, rare species are particularly vulnerable to habitat disturbance and our results therefore highlight the importance of considering rare species in future species and functional diversity conservation strategies.

More about María Natalia Umaña’s study

I have a BA in Biology and a MA in Biological Science from the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. I am currently doing my PhD at Michigan State University. Being born and raised in Colombia, I was lucky enough to study biology in one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, thus greatly influencing my interest in tropical plant diversity. Currently, my interest is focused on understanding the processes that underlie and maintain diversity and abundance in species rich plant communities.

Recent articles

  • Umaña M. N., Norden N., Cano A. & Stevenson P. 2012. Maria_Natalia_Umana-Bignonia-corymbosa_Determinants of plant community assembly in a mosaic of landscape units in central Amazonia: ecological and phylogenetic perspectives. PLoS ONE 7(9): e45199. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045199.
  • Umaña M. N., Stevenson P, Hurtado A. B., Correa D. & Medina I. 2011. Dispersal syndromes among three landscape Units in Colombian lowland Amazonia. Journal of Plant Reproductive Biology. 3: 155-159.
  • Umaña M. N., Stevenson P., Alcántara S., Lohmann L. 2011. Bignonia corymbosa (Bignoniaceae): A plant that deceives their floral visitors. Journal of Plant Reproductive Biology. 3: 15-22.