Catalysis Meeting

Transitions between Mutualism & Parasitism: Integrating Theory & Empiricism

PI(s): Michele Dudash (University of Maryland-College Park (College Park,MD))
Nat Holland (University of Houston)
Start Date: 2-Nov-2011
End Date: 3-Dec-2012
Keywords: coevoution, natural populations, population ecology, species interactions, evolutionary theory

One of the long-term challenges in biology is to understand the persistence of beneficial interactions between species, i.e., mutualism, when they so readily shift from and to antagonistic interactions such as parasitism. Given the variation in biotic and abiotic factors among populations across large geographic scales, it is notable when one observes similarities in traits between species thought to be coevolving. Recent theoretical work provides new predictions for the ecological and evolutionary conditions that lead mutualisms to transition back and forth to parasitism. Members of the carnation family (Caryophyllaceae) are ideal for this line of inquiry because all taxa examined to date exhibiting nocturnal pollination are visited by pollinating seed predator moths (Noctuidae) and 3rd party co-pollinating moths. Because of the broad distribution of these sets of interactions in the northern hemisphere, this study system provides a unique opportunity to investigate the context-dependent evolution of mutualisms, in contrast to other such system which are more tightly coevolved, such as the well known yucca and fig systems. Field data from North American and European researchers will allow us to empirically test published theory and to realistically parameterize models leading to the theoretical predictions of species coexistence under particular local conditions in native and non-native environments. Our vision for this gathering is to bring together scientists with expertise ranging from theoretical to molecular to field based empirical approaches to address the evolution of mutualisms across a large geographic scale utilizing the Caryophyllaceae-Noctuidae model system.