In her PhD Alyssa is investigating speciation in the orchid tribes Cryptostylidinae and Drakaeinae, which contain a high percentage of sexually-deceptive species. Unique insights into the evolution of this bizarre pollination strategy are revealed by combining ecological, chemical, and phylogenetic analyses.
In Cryptostylis, the functioning of a landmark Australian sexually-deceptive system is examined. The specific cues involved in pollinator attraction are being identified, and the long unresolved inter-species incompatability mechanism addressed. For the first time the ecology of asiatic Cryptostylis species and their relation to the Australian species is being investigated, allowing an exploration into the evolution of this unique genus.
In Drakaea, field pollination studies and floral chemical analyses reveal a prevalence of cryptic species, giving us a look at pollinator-mediated-speciation in action, and raising important questions for conservation.