In tropical rainforests the vast majority of plant species rely on animals to disperse their seeds and pollen. Our lab seeks to provide new answers to the long-standing questions of how and why different animals vary in the dispersal services they provide, and what the consequences are for plant species and communities. These questions are of fundamental importance for evolutionary ecologists because seed and pollen dispersal determine patterns of genetic and ecological diversity within and among plant populations. They also have important conservation consequences, since better understanding these relationships will help predict how global change may upset these mutualisms.
Our research combines genetic analyses of dispersed seeds and pollen; various approaches to animal tracking including radio-telemetry and GPS tags; and field-based observation and experimentation to address these questions in the Chocó rainforests of northwest Ecuador. Here, we have generated a longitudinal data set of molecular and field data, with a particular focus on seed dispersal of the canopy palm tree Oenocarpus bataua by long-wattled umbrellabirds, a large, lek-breeding bird.
Ph.D. student Luke Browne is expanding the work in Ecuador by assessing the the influence of frugivores in creating lasting spatial and genetic patterns in Oenocarpus. He is also interested in understanding and predicting what happens when pollen and seed dispersal is disrupted by anthropogenic forces. In Peruvian cloud forest, Ph.D. candidate Jenny Hazlehurst is researching how interactions between hummingbirds (which provide pollination services) and flowerpiercers (which rob nectar from the base of flowers without providing pollination services) affect pollination biology of the plant Oreocallis grandiflora.
Browne, L., K. Ottewell, and J. Karubian. 2015. Short-term genetic consequences of habitat loss and fragmentation for the neotropical palm Oenocarpus bataua. Heredity. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2015.35. PDF
Karubian, J. and R. Durães. Impacts of mating behavior on plant-animal seed dispersal mutualisms: a case study from a Neotropical lek-breeding bird. In Sexual Selection: Insights from the Neotropics (eds. R. Macedo and G. Machado). Elsivier Press. Pp. 365-390. PDF
Kraul, C. 2013. Ecology in Action. Tulanian Magazine. PDF – News piece on work in Ecuador
Scofield, D.G., P.E. Smouse, J. Karubian and V.L. Sork. 2012. Using alpha, beta, and gamma diversity to characterize seed dispersal by animals: social behavior matters. American Naturalist. PDF
Karubian, J., L. Browne, C. Bosque, T. Carlo, M. Galetti, B.A. Loiselle, J.G. Blake, D. Cabrera, R. Durães, F.M. Labecca, K.M. Holbrook, R. Holland, W. Jetz, F. Kummeth, J. Olivo, K. Ottewell, G. Papadakis, G. Rivas, S. Steiger, B. Voirin, and M. Wikelski. 2012. Seed dispersal by Neotropical birds: emerging patterns and underlying processes. Neotropical Ornithology. PDF
Ottewell, K., E. Grey, F. Castillo, and J. Karubian. 2012. Direct parentage analysis reveals non-leptokurtic pollen dispersal in the insect-pollinated tropical palm Oenocarpus bataua. Heredity. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2012.40 PDF | Commentary | Podcast
Karubian, J., R. Durães, J. Storey, and T.B. Smith. 2012. Mating behavior drives seed dispersal in the long-wattled umbrellabird Cephalopterus penduliger. Biotropica 44: 689-698. PDF *Recipient: 2013 Award for Excellence in Tropical Biology & Conservation
Karubian, J. 2011. The Long-wattled Umbrellabid: the feathered gardeners of the Choco. Terra Incognita 72: 8-18. (July 2011) PDF
Karubian, J., V.L. Sork, T. Roorda, R. Durães, and T.B. Smith. 2010. Destination-based dispersal by the long-wattled umbrellabird Cephalopterus penduliger homogenizes genetic structure of a tropical palm. Molecular Ecology 19: 1745-1753. PDF | Cover Page
Karubian, J. 2010. Pompadours in the palms. Natural History Magazine. 119: 28-32. (February 2010) PDF
Karubian, J. 2009. The secret life of the Long-wattled Umbrellabird. El Commercio Newspaper, Ecuador (May 10, 2009) PDF
Karubian, J. and R. Durães. 2009. Effects of seed disperser social behavior on patterns of seed movement and deposition Oecologia Brasiliensis 13(1): 45-57. PDF