2020 Mentors and Projects
Plant Systematics, Conservation Biology, and Ethnobotany

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Juan Moreira-Hernández, Ph.D. candidate

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Juan Moreira-Hernández, Ph.D. candidate

Ph.D. candidate
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Research Interests
• Animal-mediated pollination and seed dispersal systems
• Reproductive ecology
• Plant diversification

 

Nathan Muchhala, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
University of Missouri-St. Louis

Research Interests
• Specialization in pollination systems
• Competition for pollination
• Plant speciation

Does pollen morphology reflect adaptation to fur and feathers of vertebrate pollinators? A test with bat- and hummingbird-pollinated Neotropical plants. Moreira-Hernández is a Ph.D candidate at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he studies the role of pollinator sharing and competition through interspecific pollen transfer, in terms of how they influence patterns of floral phenotypic divergence, population differentiation, and species coexistence. Muchhala is an Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, he studies the role of interactions between species, especially mutualism and competition, in shaping communities and driving diversification. Muchhala is particularly interested in the evolution of pollination by bats and birds in the Neotropics. Pollinators are important drivers of floral evolution. Plants adapt to pollinators by exhibiting floral traits influencing pollinator attraction (e.g. flower color and scent), but also those related to morphological fit and pollen placement in the body of pollinators (e.g. shape, length and orientation of floral reproductive parts). An overlooked possibility is that the morphology of pollen grains might also reflect properties enhancing adhesion to the body surface of pollinators for more efficient, long-distance transport. For example, pollen deposited on fast-flying pollinators such as bats or hummingbirds could exhibit distinctive morphological features that may facilitate adhesion to fur and feathers despite high air friction during rapid flight. This project will use herbarium specimens from the Missouri Botanical Garden herbarium to measure multiple morphological traits of pollen grains from bat- and hummingbird-pollinated plants within the Neotropical members of the families Campanulaceae and Marcgraviaceae. We will use these data to statistically evaluate whether pollen grain morphology reflect flower pollination syndrome in these two clades. The student will process pollen samples for observation under light microscope and scanning electron microscope (SEM). Morphological pollen characteristics will be described and compared using statistical software. The student participating in this project will have the opportunity of being co-author of a research paper including these results.

| Categories: | Tags: Pollination, Reproductive ecology, Plant diversification | Return