Sources of Funding:
- National Geographic grant 7534-03: “Fragrance complexity in night-blooming flowers: convergence or
- Andrew W. Mellon Foundation: “Evolution and Historical Biogeography of Onagraceae Tribe
Onagreae, a Major Lineage Derived from the Madro-Tertiary Flora”
- NSF grant DEB-9806840: “Pattern and Process in the Evolution of Hawkmoth Pollination”
- Guilds of night-blooming flowers pollinated by hawkmoths have evolved
across the world in subtropical grasslands, deserts and tropical rainforests.
- Members of sphingophilous guilds show strong convergent evolution in
floral form, nectar tube length, color and timing of anthesis.
- The intensity and composition of floral scent is less strongly conserved among
guild members, with some properties specific to plant lineage.
I originally studied the Sonoran Desert hawkmoth pollination guild as a postdoc at
the University of Arizona. With Lucinda McDade and Rachel Levin, we had an NSF-
funded study to address the gain and loss of sphingophily in three lineages (Onagraceae,
Nicotiana (Solanaceae), and Nyctaginaceae. Rachel continued this work as a postdoc
with Warren Wagner and Liz Zimmer at the Smithsonian, focusing on Onagraceae
systematics. We added a fourth lineage (Echinopsis cacti) as part of Boris Schlumpberger’s
postdoc with me at South Carolina. Finally, we compared similar guilds from the same
Lattitudes in South Africa and Argentina, in a National Geographic study with Steve
Johnson, Andrea Cocucci and Marcela Moré.
- If scent is demonstrably necessary to attract hawkmoths to flowers, then why does its complexity and intensity vary so
dramatically between guild members pollinated by the same moths?
- Can some of this variation be parsed into factors other than
pollinator attraction, such as floral defense, biosynthetic artifacts
and phylogenetic history?
- Once these other factors are accounted for, is there evidence for convergent evolution of scent components associated with
- Turning the question on its end, is scent chemistry useful as
a phylogenetically informative set of characters?
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