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Antagonistic and mutualistic interactions among hummingbirds, phoretic mites, and tropical flowers

Join us on November 20th for a talk by Laura Bizzarri titled "Mirroring antagonistic and mutualistic interactions give rise to shifts in network architecture among hummingbirds, phoretic mites, and tropical flowers" over Zoom. Starting at 6:30 we will have a pre-meeting social, followed by a brief business meeting and the talk by Ms. Bizzarri at 7:30. Please contact for the Zoom meeting info.

Abstract: Mutualistic and antagonistic interaction networks are associated with nested or compartmentalized structures, which maximize community stability. We explore the hypothesis that mutualistic interactions may constrain the structure of a closely associated antagonistic network. We combined molecular methods and high-speed cameras to identify interactions between plants, hummingbirds and flower mites at La Selva Biological Station, Costa Rica, a tropical rain forest site. DNA barcodes (CO1) from 1631 flower mites revealed 20 mite species interacting with 14 plant species at La Selva. After 272 hours of video, we recorded ten hummingbird species visiting 11 plant species. The hummingbird-plant network is nested, as expected in mutualistic networks. The mite-plant network was also nested, contradicting expectations for antagonistic networks. The distribution of mite species among host plants can be explained by direct transfer via hummingbirds. However, differences in host plant use between mite and hummingbird species are the result of non-random selection of host plants by mite species.

Laura's Bio: I am originally from Italy and moved to the US to pursue a B.S. in Zoology at Michigan State University. I am currently a PhD student in the Garcia-Robledo Lab in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut. I recently received my Masters from UConn's EEB department, for which I studied hummingbird flower mites at La Selva Biological Station in Costa Rica, specifically investigating their local diversity and their interactions with host plants and the hummingbirds they hitchhike on. During my PhD I plan on continuing my work with this cool system of interactions, diving into community assembly mechanisms within the La Selva hummingbird flower mite assemblage. My personal interests range through a variety of topics within Biology, Ecology and Entomology. These include plant-insect interactions, pollinator biology, conservation, as well as climate change effects on organisms and their biodiversity.


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