NEW PAPER: Vertical stratification of plant–pollinator interactions

We have a new paper about small-scale variation of flower visitation in relation to inflorescence height and the structure of the surrounding vegetation.

Klecka J, Hadrava J, Koloušková P. (2018) Vertical stratification of plant–pollinator interactions in a temperate grassland. PeerJ 6:e4998


Visitation of plants by different pollinators depends on individual plant traits, spatial context, and other factors. A neglected aspect of small-scale variation of plant–pollinator interactions is the role of vertical position of flowers. We conducted a series of experiments to study vertical stratification of plant–pollinator interactions in a dry grassland. We observed flower visitors on cut inflorescences of Centaurea scabiosa and Inula salicina placed at different heights above ground in two types of surrounding vegetation: short and tall. Even at such a small-scale, we detected significant shift in total visitation rate of inflorescences in response to their vertical position. In short vegetation, inflorescences close to the ground were visited more frequently, while in tall vegetation, inflorescences placed higher received more visits. Moreover, we found major differences in the composition of the pollinator community on flowers at different heights. In a second experiment, we measured flower visitation rate in inflorescences of Salvia verticillata of variable height. Total flower visitation rate increased markedly with inflorescence height in this case. Data on seed set of individual plants provide evidence for a corresponding positive pollinator-mediated selection on increased inflorescence height. Overall, our results demonstrate strong vertical stratification of plant–pollinator interactions at the scale of mere decimetres. This may have important ecological as well as evolutionary implications.


National Geographic grant

Asma Akter has been recently awarded an Early Career Grant by the National Geographic, project title: Habitat fragmentation and forest loss in the Sundarbans.

She will spend one month in the Sundarbans mangrove forest in Bangladesh studying plant-pollinator interactions. Let’s hope she comes back with a lot of interesting data and valuable experience!


Asma’s first paper

The first paper written as a part of Asma’s PhD project has been recently published!

Akter A., Biella P. & Klecka J. (2017) Effects of small-scale clustering of flowers on pollinator foraging behaviour and flower visitation rate. PLOS ONE 12: e0187976. (fulltext).

Distribution patterns and hints of an uphill shift in Bombus alpinus NEW PAPER

Paolo has a cool new paper in press about the distribution of an endangered alpine bumblebee. Congratulations!

Biella, P., Bogliani, G., Cornalba, M., Manino, A., Neumayer, J., Porporato, M., Rasmont, P. & Milanesi, P. (in press). Distribution patterns of the cold adapted bumblebee Bombus alpinus in the Alps and hints of an uphill shift (Insecta: Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of Insect Conservation.

Climatic niche evolution is faster in sympatric than allopatric lineages of the butterfly genus Pyrgus NEW PAPER

A new paper with Irena as one of the authors has just been published!

Climatic niche evolution is faster in sympatric than allopatric lineages of the butterfly genus Pyrgus
Camille Pitteloud, Nils Arrigo, Tomasz Suchan, Alicia Mastretta-Yanes, Roger Vila, Vlad Dincă, Juan Hernández-Roldán, Ernst Brockmann, Yannick Chittaro, Irena Kleckova, Luca Fumagalli, Sven Buerki, Loïc Pellissier, Nadir Alvarez
Proceedings of the Royal Society B – Biological Sciences 2017, 284, 20170208; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0208 Published 12 April 2017


Understanding how speciation relates to ecological divergence has long fascinated biologists. It is assumed that ecological divergence is essential to sympatric speciation, as a mechanism to avoid competition and eventually lead to reproductive isolation, while divergence in allopatry is not necessarily associated with niche differentiation. The impact of the spatial context of divergence on the evolutionary rates of abiotic dimensions of the ecological niche has rarely been explored for an entire clade. Here, we compare the magnitude of climatic niche shifts between sympatric versus allopatric divergence of lineages in butterflies. By combining next-generation sequencing, parametric biogeography and ecological niche analyses applied to a genus-wide phylogeny of Palaearctic Pyrgus butterflies, we compare evolutionary rates along eight climatic dimensions across sister lineages that diverged in large-scale sympatry versus allopatry. In order to examine the possible effects of the spatial scale at which sympatry is defined, we considered three sets of biogeographic assignments, ranging from narrow to broad definition. Our findings suggest higher rates of niche evolution along all climatic dimensions for sister lineages that diverge in sympatry, when using a narrow delineation of biogeographic areas. This result contrasts with significantly lower rates of climatic niche evolution found in cases of allopatric speciation, despite the biogeographic regions defined here being characterized by significantly different climates. Higher rates in allopatry are retrieved when biogeographic areas are too widely defined—in such a case allopatric events may be recorded as sympatric. Our results reveal the macro-evolutionary significance of abiotic niche differentiation involved in speciation processes within biogeographic regions, and illustrate the importance of the spatial scale chosen to define areas when applying parametric biogeographic analyses.

Two new grants starting in 2017

The grant which financed our work for three years in 2014-2016 expired a few weeks ago. However, we were successful with two grant applications for projects continuing and significantly expanding our current research. So, we are happy that we can build on what our little group has started over the past few years.

The first grant is a Junior grant provided by the Czech Science Foundation for a project called  “Networks of plants, pollinators, and thieves: from individual-level interactions to community-level coevolutionary trends”. The duration of the project is three years; i.e. until the end of 2019.

The second project called “Applications of DNA barcoding for research on important popllinators” is funded by an internal grant awarded by the Czech Academy of Sciences under the program Strategy AV21: Diversity of life and health of ecosystems. This is a smaller project which should be completed until the end of 2017.


New butterfly paper published!

Our latest paper on behaviour and thermoregulation of Erebia butterflies has been accepted for publication. The official version is in print, but you can download a final preprint here.

Kleckova I. & Klecka J., in press: Facing the heat: thermoregulation and behaviour of lowland species of a cold-dwelling butterfly genus Erebia. PLOS ONE.

Paper recommended by F1000

Our paper has been recommended by F1000. I don’t subscribe to that service, but it’s good news in any case. Link: here. It’s this paper:

Fronhofer, E. A., Klecka, J., Melián, C. J., & Altermatt, F. (2015). Condition‐dependent movement and dispersal in experimental metacommunities. Ecology Letters 18: 954-963.



Website usage report for 2015

I just saw the usage report for our website for the last year. It’s nice that we had visitors from 46 countries.

This is the report we received:

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.