Insect pollinators have profoundly influenced the evolution of flowering plants by exerting selective pressures on floral traits. The Orchidaceae provides some of the most fascinating examples of how natural selection imposed by pollinators shapes the evolution of floral traits. The males of orchid bees (or euglossine bees) collect volatile compounds from both floral and non-floral sources, which they subsequently expose as pheromone analogues (perfumes) during courtship display. Approximately ~700 orchid species from the neotropics have evolved adaptations for pollination by male orchid bees.
March’s featured speaker is Dr. Santiago Ramirez, an Associate Professor at the University of California Davis. He will present his most recent research that takes advantage of this powerful chemical signaling system to determine the mechanisms of pollinator attraction and reproductive isolation among orchids. Most of Dr. Ramirez’s work has focused on Gongora orchids, which emit powerful floral scents that attract and reward male euglossine bees in exchange for pollination services. Male euglossine bees collect and store these scents in hind-leg pockets to concoct perfumes used subsequently during elaborate courtship display. Current research at UC Davis, has identified several cryptic scent chemotypes of Gongora that are tightly associated with non-overlapping assemblages of bee pollinators.
About Dr. Santiago Ramirez
Dr. Ramírez received his B.Sc. in Biology at the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia). He pursued his Ph.D. at Harvard University and conducted postdoctoral work at UC Berkeley. Dr. Ramírez is broadly interested in studying the adaptations, speciation processes, and ecological determinants that influence insect-plant associations. His work combines multiple approaches including ecological genomics, phylogenetics, population genetics, chemical ecology, and natural history.