The American Society of Plant Taxonomists awarded Ricardo Kriebel, an expert on the tropical princess flower family, their George R. Cooley Award for Best Contributed Paper in Plant Systematics at the society’s annual meeting for his talk, “Syndromes within syndromes: floral diversification in buzz pollinated Conostegia (Melastomataceae, Miconieae)”. Using extensive DNA data sets in combination with detailed anatomical study of flowers, Kriebel reconstructed the evolutionary history of a closely related group of about 70 species of princess flowers in the genus Conostegia that are characterized by an unusual “buzz pollination” mechanism for transferring pollen from the male (anther) to female (stigma) parts of the flower. In buzz pollination, bees use a specific wing beat frequency (the “buzz”) to cause pollen to shoot out of the anther. The bees become covered in pollen and then transfer the pollen to the stigma inadvertently, ultimately leading to fertilization of the plant’s eggs. Because all princess flowers have male and female parts, self-pollination can occur, which can be genetically deleterious by causing inbreeding. Also, the male (anther) and female (stigma) parts of the flower may interfere with each other’s function. Normally, this self-pollination and/or interference is prevented in Conostegia princess flowers because the anther and stigma are physically far apart in the same flower. Kriebel discovered that different groups of the Conostegia princess flowers have, during their evolutionary history, unexpectedly lost this physical separation and then regained it in an unusually complex pattern of anatomical evolution, demonstrating that mechanisms to prevent self-pollination and interference can change relatively rapidly in flowering plants.
Kriebel is a Ph.D. student at Lehman College at the City University of New York, in association with the New York Botanical Garden in New York City. His Ph.D. advisor and co-author on the paper is Dr. Fabian Michelangeli, an Associate Curator of the Institute of Systematic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden. More information on Kriebel’s botanical work can be found at http://www.nybg.org/science/scientist_profile.php?id_scientist=97
The award is named for George R. Cooley, a successful banker who studied plants and worked in conservation in retirement. It is awarded to graduate students or early career researchers whose work is judged to be noteworthy as complete, synthetic, and original.
About the American Society of Plant Taxonomists: The American Society of Plant Taxonomists promotes the research and teaching of the taxonomy, systematics, and phylogeny of vascular and nonvascular plants. Organized in 1935, the Society has a membership of over 1300. The Society publishes Systematic Botany and Systematic Botany Monographs, supports a variety of honorary and charitable activities, and conducts scientific meetings each summer. Information on the Society’s 2013 joint meeting with four other botanical societies (Botany 2013) can be found at http://www.botanyconference.org/.
Michael Moore, Chair of the Public Relations Committee
American Society of Plant Taxonomists