Doctor of Philosophy, University of Michigan Ann Arbor (2011)
Tadashi Fukami, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The way species affect one another in ecological communities often depends on the order of species arrival. The magnitude of such historical contingency, known as priority effects, varies across species and environments, but this variation has proven difficult to predict, presenting a major challenge in understanding species interactions and consequences for community structure and function. Here, we argue that improved predictions can be achieved by decomposing species' niches into three components: overlap, impact and requirement. Based on classic theories of community assembly, three hypotheses that emphasise related, but distinct influences of the niche components are proposed: priority effects are stronger among species with higher resource use overlap; species that impact the environment to a greater extent exert stronger priority effects; and species whose growth rate is more sensitive to changes in the environment experience stronger priority effects. Using nectar-inhabiting microorganisms as a model system, we present evidence that these hypotheses complement the conventional hypothesis that focuses on the role of environmental harshness, and show that niches can be twice as predictive when separated into components. Taken together, our hypotheses provide a basis for developing a general framework within which the magnitude of historical contingency in species interactions can be predicted.
View details for DOI 10.1111/ele.12204
View details for Web of Science ID 000328315900013
The gut microflora of the honey bee, Apis mellifera, is receiving increasing attention as a potential determinant of the bees' health and their efficacy as pollinators. Studies have focused primarily on the microbial taxa that appear numerically dominant in the bee gut, with the assumption that the dominant status suggests their potential importance to the bees' health. However, numerically minor taxa might also influence the bees' efficacy as pollinators, particularly if they are not only present in the gut, but also capable of growing in floral nectar and altering its chemical properties. Nonetheless, it is not well understood whether honey bees have any feeding preference for or against nectar colonized by specific microbial species. To test whether bees exhibit a preference, we conducted a series of field experiments at an apiary using synthetic nectar inoculated with specific species of bacteria or yeast that had been isolated from the bee gut, but are considered minor components of the gut microflora. These species had also been found in floral nectar. Our results indicated that honey bees avoided nectar colonized by the bacteria Asaia astilbes, Erwinia tasmaniensis, and Lactobacillus kunkeei, whereas the yeast Metschnikowia reukaufii did not affect the feeding preference of the insects. Our results also indicated that avoidance of bacteria-colonized nectar was caused not by the presence of the bacteria per se, but by the chemical changes to nectar made by the bacteria. These findings suggest that gut microbes may not only affect the bees' health as symbionts, but that some of the microbes may possibly affect the efficacy of A. mellifera as pollinators by altering nectar chemistry and influencing their foraging behavior.
View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0086494
View details for PubMedID 24466119
Below-ground (BG) symbionts of plants can have substantial influence on plant growth and nutrition. Recent work demonstrates that mycorrhizal fungi can affect plant resistance to herbivory and the performance of above- (AG) and BG herbivores. Although these examples emerge from diverse systems, it is unclear if plant species that express similar defensive traits respond similarly to fungal colonization, but comparative work may inform this question. To examine the effects of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) on the expression of chemical resistance, we inoculated 8 species of Asclepias (milkweed)-which all produce toxic cardenolides-with a community of AMF. We quantified plant biomass, foliar and root cardenolide concentration and composition, and assessed evidence for a growth-defense tradeoff in the presence and absence of AMF. As expected, total foliar and root cardenolide concentration varied among milkweed species. Importantly, the effect of mycorrhizal fungi on total foliar cardenolide concentration also varied among milkweed species, with foliar cardenolides increasing or decreasing, depending on the plant species. We detected a phylogenetic signal to this variation; AMF fungi reduced foliar cardenolide concentrations to a greater extent in the clade including A. curassavica than in the clade including A. syriaca. Moreover, AMF inoculation shifted the composition of cardenolides in AG and BG plant tissues in a species-specific fashion. Mycorrhizal inoculation changed the relative distribution of cardenolides between root and shoot tissue in a species-specific fashion, but did not affect cardenolide diversity or polarity. Finally, a tradeoff between plant growth and defense in non-mycorrhizal plants was mitigated completely by AMF inoculation. Overall, we conclude that the effects of AMF inoculation on the expression of chemical resistance can vary among congeneric plant species, and ameliorate tradeoffs between growth and defense.
View details for DOI 10.3389/fpls.2013.00361
View details for Web of Science ID 000331114300001
View details for PubMedID 24065971
Mutualistic interactions are often subject to exploitation by species that are not directly involved in the mutualism. Understanding which organisms act as such 'third-party' species and how they do so is a major challenge in the current study of mutualistic interactions. Here, we show that even species that appear ecologically similar can have contrasting effects as third-party species. We experimentally compared the effects of nectar-inhabiting bacteria and yeasts on the strength of a mutualism between a hummingbird-pollinated shrub, Mimulus aurantiacus, and its pollinators. We found that the common bacterium Gluconobacter sp., but not the common yeast Metschnikowia reukaufii, reduced pollination success, seed set and nectar consumption by pollinators, thereby weakening the plant-pollinator mutualism. We also found that the bacteria reduced nectar pH and total sugar concentration more greatly than the yeasts did and that the bacteria decreased glucose concentration and increased fructose concentration whereas the yeasts affected neither. These distinct changes to nectar chemistry may underlie the microbes' contrasting effects on the mutualism. Our results suggest that it is necessary to understand the determinants of microbial species composition in nectar and their differential modification of floral rewards to explain the mutual benefits that plants and pollinators gain from each other.
View details for DOI 10.1098/rspb.2012.2601
View details for PubMedID 23222453