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Community-level consequences of Piper chemistry on tropical herbivores, parasitoids and fungi

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Title: Community-level consequences of Piper chemistry on tropical herbivores, parasitoids and fungi
Author: Slinn, Heather
Department: Department of Integrative Biology
Program: Integrative Biology
Advisor: Newman, JonathanDyer, Lee
Abstract: Plant chemistry is a defining feature of plants as taxa exhibit extensive chemical variation, which influences interactions with other organisms, especially insect and mammalian herbivores and fungi. Plant chemistry can act as an important ecological filter that shapes which fungi can colonize host plant tissue and which insects and mammals form associations with it. The majority of research that has been done on the consequences of plant-insect, and more generally plant-herbivore, interactions has focused on isolating the effects of one or two plant compounds. However, looking at phytochemical profiles as a whole is a better reflection of nature as plants often contain compounds that are rich in structural and functional diversity. In addition, tropical ecosystems are home to extremely diverse fungal communities, which are formed by complex ecological filters. Fungi can largely influence plant chemistry and therefore plant-insect interactions; however, only a small percentage of fungi have been characterized, and scientists understand even less about their functional roles. Here, I contribute to the research addressing these knowledge gaps using Piper, which is a pantropical plant genus with a broad spectrum of phytochemistry, and which hosts highly specialized insect and mammalian herbivores and diverse fungal communities. I start Chapter One with an introduction to the overarching concepts and theoretical framework of my three research chapters (Chapters Two-Four). In Chapter Two, I investigate how phytochemical diversity across several plant species in two tropical ecosystems vary in their effects on herbivore immune response and herbivore parasitism by parasitoids. Chapter Three begins my research into the microbial world of Piper, where I examine how heritability of plant chemistry in Piper sancti-felicis and land-use history at the site affect herbivory, herbivore immunity, and fungal endophyte communities. Chapter Four establishes the consequences of bat digestion on the seed fungal communities of P. sancti-felicis and identifies anti-fungal properties in the fruit. I conclude with a summary and overall integration of the themes and findings of my research chapters in Chapter Five. In conclusion, I show how plant chemistry in neotropical Piper is an important determinant of species interactions and community assembly across two different kingdoms of organisms.
Date: 2021-04
Rights: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International
Related Publications: Slinn, H. L., Richards, L. A., Dyer, L. A., Hurtado, P. J., & Smilanich, A. M. (2018). Across multiple species, phytochemical diversity and herbivore diet breadth have cascading effects on herbivore immunity and parasitism in a tropical model system. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9, 656.

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