My work focuses on visual signals in communication systems between plants and animals. Specifically, I am interested in how the colors of flowers and fruits affect pollination and seed dispersal, respectively. Do more conspicuous flowers and fruits lead to a higher success in pollination or seed dispersal, as signaling theory generally predicts? And how closely coupled are flower/fruit colors with the coloration of leaves? I address these questions by carrying out field experiments with two closely related Vaccinium species. Because color as well as contrast depends on the visual abilities of organisms, I use color space models of bees, flies and birds to quantify the color and analyze the conspicuousness of flowers and fruits.
Moreover, I am interested in understanding the evolution of fruit color diversity within and among fleshy-fruited, bird-dispersed plant communities. In collaboration with Dr. Richard Prum, Dr. Michael Donoghue and Dr. Eugenia Lo, Yale University, we are studying fruit color diversity using an avian tetrahedral color space. This receptor space was developed by M. C. Stoddard and R. Prum and allows the analysis of color and color diversity based on models of avian vision. Specifically, we are interested in the forces that lead to the diversification of fruit colors between species. At the same time we want to investigate what causes the boundaries of fruit color diversity and how common ancestry may affect this diversity.
During my diploma (master’s) thesis at the University of Freiburg I worked on a sympatric breeding and allopatric wintering population of the Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla). Blackcaps breeding in southwestern Germany are thought to mate assortatively with respect to wintering quarters but the factors causing assortative mating are unclear. I studied male courtship song and breeding territory choice as factors that may be influencing the observed assortative pairing.
Kalliope E. Stournaras, Eugenia Lo, Katrin Bˆhning-Gaese, Eliana Cazetta, D. Matthias Dehling, Matthias Schleuning, Mary Caswell Stoddard, Michael J. Donoghue, Richard O. Prum and H. Martin Schaefer, 2013. How colorful are fruits? Limited color diversity in fleshy fruits on local and global scales. New Phytologist 198: 617-629.
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