Nathan Muchhala: 'Bats, Birds and Bellflowers: The Evolution of Specialized Polination in the Neotropics'
May 23, 2012
|Nathan Muchhala will speak on “Bats, Birds, and Bellflowers: The Evolution of Specialized Pollination in the Neotropics” at the next UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar, set for noon, May 30 in 122 Briggs Hall.|
DAVIS--Nathan Muchhalawho discovered and researches a tube-lipped nectar bat with a tongue longer than its body, will speak on “Bats, Birds, and Bellflowers: The Evolution of Specialized Pollination in the Neotropics” at the next UC Davis Department of Entomology seminar, set from 12:10 to 1 p.m., Wednesday, May 30 in 122 Briggs.
Host is Jessica Forrest of the Neal Williams lab.
Muchhala, a postdoctoral fellow in the Stacey D. Smith lab, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, says the two-inch long bat, Anoura fistulata, found in the Equadorian Andes, can extend its tongue 3.3 inches. Proportionately, its tongue is longer than any other mammal in world. It is so long that it stores its tongue in its rib cage.
Muchhala, who discovered the new species several years ago in Ecuador, described it in a 2005 paper. He published his work in 2006 in the journal Nature and was featured in a 2006 article in the New York Times.
The bat nectars Centropogon nigricans, which has a corolla the same length as the bat's tongue. The genus is found in Mexico and much of South America, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru.
Abstract: "Animal pollination is thought to have played a central role in angiosperm diversification, especially in the tropics, where more than 98 percent of plants are animal-pollinated. My research combines experiments and theory to explore the ecology and evolution of plant-pollinator interactions, with a focus on vertebrate pollination in the Neotropics. In this talk I begin by discussing research on a recently discovered species of nectar bat which can launch its tongue 1.5 times its body length, an extension more than double that of other bats and longer than any other mammal. Unique adaptations allow it to store its tongue in its rib cage.
|Nectar bat, Anoura fistulata, sipping from a test tube of sugar water. Note its long tongue, which is longer proportionately, than any other mammal. (Photo by Murray Cooper; photo courtesy of Nathan Muchhala)|
"Experiments suggest that this bat is involved in a coevolutionary race with the long-tubed flowers; tongue elongation allows bats to reach more nectar, while flower elongation maximizes pollen transfer. In the second part of the talk, I present evidence for character displacement among Burmeistera flowers. In response to competition for pollination, co-occuring Burmeistera place their pollen in different regions of bats heads’, thus maximizing conspecific pollen transfer despite sharing bats as pollinators. In the final part of the talk, I discuss why bat-flowers produce so much pollen, a little-understood aspect of chiropterophily that was previously ascribed to poor pollination by bats. Experiments instead demonstrate that bats’ fur can successfully transfer larger amounts of pollen than birds’ feathers. This leads to a more linear male-fitness gain curve for bat-flowers, and selection for increased pollen production."
Biosketch: Muchhala first traveled to the Neotropics with a Fulbright Fellowship in 1999, and has been returning for fieldwork on bat and bird pollination ever since. He received his doctorate in biology in 2007 from the University of Miami, was a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Toronto from 2007 to 2010, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow with the University of Nebraska. He has authored 24 scientific papers. Some representative publications include:
Muchhala, N., and J. D. Thomson. 2012. Interspecific competition in pollination systems: costs to male fitness via pollen misplacement. Functional Ecology 26(2):476-482.
Muchhala, N., and J.D. Thomson. 2010. Fur versus feathers: Pollen delivery by bats and hummingbirds, and consequences for pollen production. American Naturalist 175(6):717-726
* Featured in Science Podcast and ScienceNOW
Muchhala, N., and J.D. Thomson. 2009. Going to great lengths: selection for long corolla tubes in an extremely specialized bat-flower mutualism. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276:2147-2152
* Featured in Nature's Research Highlights, Nature 458:388
Muchhala, N. and M.D. Potts. 2007. Character displacement among bat-pollinated flowers of the genus Burmeistera: analysis of mechanism, process, and pattern. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274:2731-2737
* Featured in Science Daily News
Muchhala, N. 2006. Nectar bat stows huge tongue in rib cage. Nature 444:701-702
* Featured in The New York Times, Quirks & Quarks, Nature Podcast, New Scientist
Podcast interview with Nathan Muchhala (pollinators.info)
How to Share a Bat (Science Daily)
Flowers ShapeThemselves to Guide Their Pollinators to the Pollen (Science Daily)
For an Andean Nectar Feeder, a Tongue That Wags the Bat (New York Times)
Botany Photo of the Day
Coordinators of the spring seminars are Louie Yang and Joanna Chiu, assistant professors. All lectures will take place on Wednesdays from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall. The series, launched April 4, will continue through May 23.
In a webcast project coordinated by professor James R. Carey, most of the seminars will be videotaped and can be accessed at a later date on UCTV.
The complete list of speakers for the April 4-June 6 seminars:
April 4: Ian Pearse, who just finished his doctorate, working with major professor Rick Karban lab, UC Davis, will speak on "The Use of Non-Native Plants by Native Herbivores."
Host: Rick Karban, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
April 11: James Harwood, graduate student, James R. Carey lab, UC Davis,"Biodemography of Reproductive Senescence in Fruit Flies (Tephritidae): The Influence of External Conditions on Age Specific Reproduction and Lifespan"
Host: James R. Carey, professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
April 18: Bryony C. Bonning, professor, Iowa State University, "Novel Toxin Delivery Strategies for Management of Pestiferous Aphids"
Host: Bruce Hammock, distinguished professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
April 25: Vince Jones, professor, Washington State University. "How a 'Perfect Storm' of Technology, Legislation, and Applied Ecology Is Finally Leading to IPM in Western Orchards"
Host: Michael Parrella, professor and chair, UC Davis Department of Entomology
May 2: Susan Cobey, bee breeder-geneticist at UC Davis and Washington State University, "Importation of Honey Bee Germplasm to Increase Genetic Diversity in Domestic Breeding Stocks"
Host: Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist, UC Davis Department of Entomology
May 9: Cancelled. Sonia Altizer's talk will now be June 6
May 16: James C. Nieh, professor of biology, University of California, San Diego, "Role of Negative Signaling in a Superorganism: the Honey Bee Stop Signal"
Host: Brian Johnson, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
May 23: Tara Thiemann, postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis, William Reisen lab, "Survey of Culex Bloodfeeding Patterns in California"
Host: William Reisen, research entomologist, Center for Vectorborne Diseases, and adjunct professor, Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology (PMI), School of Veterinary Medicine
May 30: Nathan Muchhala, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb., “Bats, Birds, and Bellflowers: The Evolution of Specialized Pollination in the Neotropics”
Host: Jessica Forrest, Neal Williams lab
June 6: Sonia Altizer, professor, University of Georgia, "Infection and Immunity in Migratory Species: Monarchs as a Global Case Study" (Rescheduled from May 9)
Host: Louie Yang, assistant professor, UC Davis Department of Entomology
--Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC Davis Department of Entomology