The chemical, biochemical, genetic and ecological basis of pollinator-driven speciation in Australian orchids

This project explores the critical role of pollinators in plant evolution and speciation

Plants offer extraordinary, yet overlooked, opportunities for studying speciation. Pollination is a unique step in the plant life cycle with many plants dependent on animals for this critical step. Although it has long been hypothesised that pollinators have played a key role in plant speciation and diversification, a great deal remains to be learnt about their role in plant evolution. In this project we are investigating the chemical, biochemical, genetic and ecological basis of pollinator switching in Australian sexually deceptive orchids. Our investigation of this unique model system will greatly improve our understanding of pollinator-driven speciation and produce vital information for orchid and pollinator conservation.

This project is funded by an ARC Discovery grant (2010 to 2012).  It represents a collaboration between the Peakall (RSB) and Barrow Lab groups (RSC) at ANU and Professor Eran Pichersky of the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB), The University of Michigan.