2012 Wiley Fundamental Ecology Award winner

Congratulations Rhiannon Dalrymple  - Winner of the 2012 Wiley Fundamental Ecology Award

Rhiannon Dalrymple, University of New South Wales

‘Is life in the tropics really more colourful? A cross-taxa test for a latitudinal gradient in colour’ Colour is one of the most pervasive and overwhelming signals on the planet; it is an immensely important in signalling for mate attraction, pollination, competition and predation. It has long been believed that the tropical regions of the world are inhabited by species that are more colourful, vibrant and contrasting. However, recent analyses have seen some classic assumptions overturned, such as more intense ecological specialisation and higher rates of herbivory at lower latitudes.

In light of this, it is time to revisit this colourful idea. Investigations of this long-standing ecological tenet have thus far returned mixed results. Much previous attention has been focused on determining within species patterns of colour with respect to latitude, a hypothesis known as Gloger’s rule. Cross species studies testing the colourful tropics hypothesis lend conflicting support for a latitudinal gradient in colour, only ever encompassed a single taxonomic group and are inconsistent in their geographic breadth and strength.

Nevertheless, the major and most pressing problem with all previous investigations of a gradient in colour across latitudes is the qualitative, subjective colour assessment methods used. To date, there has been no quantitative assessment of a latitudinal gradient in the colourfulness of species across broad taxonomic groups on a continental scale. Addressing this knowledge gap is the main aim of my project. I will quantitatively measure the colours of up to 1500 species, from 3 major taxonomic groups – one vertebrate, one invertebrate and one plant - and finally provide an answer to this long standing tenet of ecology.

Rhiannon will receive a $5000 scholarship to support her research and will present her research at the joint NZES/ESA annual conference in Auckland, NZ in 2013.

ESA gratefully acknowledges our publishing partners Wiley in generously supporting this significant Student award.