Dr Rolf Oberprieler and Dr Thomas Wallenius ‘A necessary weevil: the pollination biology and evolution of cycads’

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Thursday, 22 June 2017 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm

There are seven groups of weevils associated with cycads in the world, of which four have evolved exclusive pollination mutualisms with their hosts, depending on cycad cones for breeding while the cycads depend on them for pollination. As both the weevils and the extant cycads are now known to represent quite young radiations, it appears that the evolution of these mutualisms played a key role in the survival and diversification of the modern cycads. The physiology of the cycad cones is tightly correlated with the behaviour of the weevils, in that the cones release specific odours and heat up in the evening to both attract and repel the weevils.

Dr Rolf Oberprieler is the weevil taxonomist at the Australian National Insect Collection at CSIRO in Canberra. He did his PhD on the systematics of cycad weevils in Africa, but works on the taxonomy of several other Australian weevils as well as on the phylogeny and evolution of weevils internationally.

Dr Thomas Wallenius is an entomologist with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in Canberra. For his PhD at the Australian National University he studied the pollination ecology of Macrozamia communis and discovered many previously unknown details about the interaction between this cycad and its weevil pollinator.

Rolf will talk to the broad evolutionary relationship between weevils and cycads, and Thomas will place this in the Australian context.