CIE Seminar Series 2014 – Plants that deceive: orchids, ancient mosses and insect sensory ecology

Anne GaskettSPEAKER: Dr Anne Gaskett, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Auckland
DATE: Friday, 9th May 2014
LOCATION: Melbourne Campus at Burwood, Room T3.05
TIME: 2:00 pm
Seminar will also be video linked to the following campuses: Warrnambool Campus, Room B3.03 and Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds, Room ka4.207

ABSTRACT: Orchids are supreme manipulators of behaviour, attracting insects (and humans) with a range of extraordinary floral adaptations.

Their unusual pollination strategies allows investigation of the evolution of plant-animal interactions, deception and sensory manipulation. Sexually deceptive orchids use floral colours, scents and shapes to lure insects into mating with flowers.

Other orchids mimic insect oviposition sites such as fungi and dung to attract female insects as pollinators, a strategy usually associated with Rafflesia or Titan arum flowers. Surprisingly, this brood site deception is also used by ancient Splachnaceae mosses that grow on animal remains such as carcasses, bones and dung. In this seminar, I’ll focus on by Australian and New Zealand orchids and mosses, and the evolution and natural history of their sexual and brood site deception.

Chemical analyses of odours and spectral analyses of plant colours and animal vision systems allow us to consider deceptive signals from the perspective of the deceived.

BIO: I’m interested in sensory ecology – interactions between animals and between plants and animals that rely on sensory tricks and signals. My PhD at Macquarie Uni in Sydney investigated mimicry in sexually deceptive orchids.

During a postdoc at Cornell University in the US I researched pollination in winereds – fly-pollinated flowers with yeasty aromas. Now, as a lecturer at Auckland University in NZ, my students and I research a wide range of plant-animal interactions involving orchids, mosses, wine grapes, wasps, flies and dungbeetles.

For enquiries and appointments with the guest speaker, please email Matthew Symonds.