Invertebrate Communties

This summer’s project will combine forays into the fields of insect behavioral ecology, plant evolutionary ecology, and plant-herbivore interactions. We will study a system involving a toxic plant, Silverleaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium,Solanaceae), and its only significant herbivore, the meloid beetle, Epicauta longicolus. S. elaeagnifolium is a perennial species that is only able to colonize and thrive in disturbed habitats such as those found along roads on the Sevilleta NWR. E. longicola is a diurnally-active species that feeds only on S. elaeagnifolium, and is active for only 3-4 weeks between late May and mid-July. Our work last summer showed that the beetles prefer to feed on the petals and pistils of the flowers. (mentor: Eric Toolson)