Bats, Bees, and Brazil Nut Trees

Scott A. Mori

Nathaniel Lord Britton Curator of Botany
Institute of Systematic Botany
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, New York 10458-5126

The Brazil nut family (Lecythidaceae) displays numerous flower and fruit features that reflect adaptions for pollination and dispersal. Although all tropical plant families have similar adaptations, they are especially easy to see in the Brazil nut family because of the large size of the flowers and fruits.

Photo credits are given in the acknowledgements. Slides not acknowledged were taken by me.

This presentation consists of 51 slides. At the head of each slide, you will have the options of returning to the first slide in the presentation, going to the previous slide, or continuing with the next slide . In addition, I have listed all of the slides in the presentation below with short descriptions of their content. You can go directly to that slide by clicking on the slide number.

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Slide 01. Introductory slide.
Slide 02. Lecythidaceae consist of five subfamilies.
Slide 03. Lecythidaceae are best known for the Brazil nut and the cannon ball tree.
Slide 04. Throughout Amazonia Brazil nut trees are often associated with human habitation.
Slide 05. Distribution of Neotropical Lecythidaceae.
Slide 06. Goals of presentation.
Slide 07. Two flower types in Lecythidaceae: actinomorphic and zygomorphic.
Slide 08. Three types of pollinator reward in Lecythidaceae: fertile pollen, sterile pollen, and nectar.
Slide 09. The flower of Gustavia, a genus with actinomorphic flowers.
Slide 10. The flower of Lecythis pisonis, a species with zygomorphic flowers.
Slide 11. Lecythis pisonis is pollinated by Xylocopa frontalis, line illustrations.
Slide 12. A painting by Michael Rothman showing Xylocopa frontalis entering the flowers of Lecythis pisonis.
Slide 13. Couroupita guianensis, the hood pollen is fodder and the ring pollen is fertile.
Slide 14. Physiological pollen differentiation in Couroupita guianensis and Lecythis pisonis.
Slide 15. Eschweilera pedicellata, a zygomorphic-flowered species with nectar as a reward.
Slide 16. Euglossine bees, the main pollinators of zygomorphic-flowered species with nectar as a reward.
Slide 17. Catasetum and its relatives are also pollinated by euglossine bees.
Slide 18. Flowers of Couratari, also pollinated by euglossine bees.
Slide 19. A small clade of Lecythis is pollinated by bats.
Slide 20. Head space technology allows determination of the chemical composition of floral aromas.
Slide 21. Grias neuberthii, flora aroma suggests beetle pollination.
Slide 22. Dispersal biology of Lecythidaceae also demonstrates plant/animal dependencies.
Slide 23. Fruits of the sapucaia (Lecythis pisonis) in the tree after the seeds have been dispersed.
Slide 24. The enormous fruits and the arillate seeds of the sapucaia (Lecythis pisonis)
Slide 25. A painting by Michael Rothman showing dispersal of the seeds of Lecythis pisonis by bats.
Slide 26. The seeds of Lecythis pisonis are edible by humans.
Slide 27. A Brazil nut tree
Slide 28. Brazil nut trees are pollinated by large-bodied bees seeking nectar.
Slide 29. Brazil nut tree canopy in fruit a year after the flowers have been pollinated.
Slide 30. Brazil nuts are harvested by humans and by rodents.
Slide 31. Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa), cross section of the seed coat.
Slide 32. Flower and fruit of the cannon ball tree (Couroupita guianensis).
Slide 33. Indehiscent fruits of the cannon ball tree break open upon impact with the ground.
Slide 34. Pulp of species of Couroupita is eaten by peccaries.
Slide 35. Cannon ball tree (Couroupita guianensis), cross section of the seed coat.
Slide 36. Seeds of species of Cariniana are dispersed by the wind and preyed upon by monkeys.
Slide 37. Wind-dispersed species of Lecythidaceae are among the tallest of trees.
Slide 38. Fruits of Couratari are cylindric and the seeds have a circumferential wing.
Slide 39. Species of Couratari, cross sections of the seed coats.
Slide 40. Trees of the water-dispersed Eschweilera tenuifolia growing in flooded forest.
Slide 41. Dehiscent fruits, floating seeds, and seed coat of Eschweilera tenuifolia
Slide 42. Water dispersal of Lecythis rorida.
Slide 43. Lecythis chartacea is dispersed by bats.
Slide 44. Opportunities for study of Lecythidaceae.
Slide 45. Lecythidaceae as part of the Biological Dynamics of Forest Fragments Project.
Slide 46. Accomodations near Lecythidaceae study plot at Reserve 1501.
Slide 47. Lecythidaceae density in study plot.
Slide 48. Lecythidaceae density and diversity per hectare in the 100 ha. plot.
Slide 49. Conclusions.
Slide 50. Acknowledgements.
Slide 51. Additional reading.

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