SCAPE-2012 meeting highlights

Last weekend I attended the SCandinavian Association for Pollination Ecologists (SCAPE) meeting. I had a great time there, with many “big names” among the attendants (and very interesting “small names” too!). Compared to the last ESA meeting I attended in Portland this summer, with more than 4000 people and 13 parallel seasons running all day, having only 60 people in the same cozy room was a change. Both formats has its functions, but I think is usually more productive the small and informal gathering.

Before a brief summary of the best talks (according to my biased interests), I want to mention that I am surprised on the big gap between population ecologists (mainly plant ecologists) and community ecologists (networks and landscape stuff). I am clearly guilty of only thinking at the community (and ecosystem) levels, so it was nice to be reminded about genes and specific process occurring at lower levels.

Four talks I liked:

Amots Dafni gave a great talk dismounting and old and beautiful hypothesis suggesting that floral heat reward attracts males to overnight inside the flower, and hence pollinate the plant. Despite the idea is neat, and flowers are indeed around 2ºC warmer than the environment, warmer flowers (those facing east and getting the morning sunlight) did not host more bees. They also show that no other reward is offered, and that no bee-attractive volatile compound was produced as a deceptive attraction mechanism (like the one in some orchids). The icing of the cake was showing that the bees visually perceive the flower entrance as a hole or crevice (i.e. black), indicating that the most parsimonious explanation is that flowers use shelter mimicry to attract the males. For me the most important point was to don’t get too attached to beautiful hypothesis, as often they are not supported when tested rigorously.

Erin Jo Tiedeken (in Jane Stout lab) showed that bumblebees (B. terrestris) can not detect natural levels of toxics (both natural plant toxics and insecticides) in the nectar (lab conditions). Most toxic compounds have low volatility, so that’s bad news for bees exposed to Neonicotinoids.

Robert Junker showed that floral bacterial community is more similar among flowers of different plants, than among different organs (e.g. leafs) of the same plant. Not sure what to do with that, but it’s intriguing!

Jan Goldstein did an experiment (unfortunately un-replicated) removing a network hub from a plant-pollinator network. This is a common practice on simulations to assess robustness of the networks. In those simulations when a species loses all their links is assumed to disappear from the network, however, Jan showed that most species visiting the hub, just change its visitation pattern to another plant when this hub is removed experimentally (i.e. re-wiring). Tarrant and Ollerton have a similar experiment with consistent results and I hope its published soon.

My slides here.

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