Hello world! It’s Ben and Ash from South America… Agnes explained the thrust of our project best in her recent post “Rhexia fieldwork II: buzz-flower biomechanics” so make sure to check that out! But if two tabs is too many for you (red flag) or you are a Dellinger-lab superfan (major green flag) who’s desperate for new content, we’ll paraphrase; many lineages of buzz-pollinated flowers have converged on a single morphology, the Solanum-type flower, yet members of the family Melastomataceae, which are 95% buzz-pollinated and prevalent across the tropics,have evolved a vast array of floral phenotypes. So, to summarize the illustrious Charles Darwin: what gives? In particular, how do communities of co-flowering Mels share or partition pollinators? Are these diverse morphologies a form of further subdividing the already highly specialized niche of buzz-pollination? After working with America’s sole genus of Melastomataceae, Rhexia, which contains relatively conserved phenotypes, we traveled to the cloud forests of Ecuador where we encountered a dazzling array of Melastome flowers (and an equally stunning range of pollinators!). We continued measuring floral traits (color, scent, and morphometrics), observing pollinators, and artificially vibrating anthers to explore the intricate interplay between ecology and biomechanics (nature is certainly a better engineer than we ever were). Our work here is an extension of our experiments in Florida, with the goal of comparing datasets from varied communities spanning the neotropics. We want to give a big thank you to Diana Fernández, Pancho Sornoza, Rancho Tangaré and Rios Andinos, as well as the Milpe Bird Sanctuary and the Mindo Cloud Forest Foundation. Our work would not have been possible without their help! And with that, we are on to our last stop of this field season, Southeastern Brazil. We are beyond excited to begin our work with Vinicius Brito and his team next week and to explore the Melastomes of the campos rupestres and Mata Atlântica ecoregions.

Or some pictures with fun bees and flowers 😊