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  1. PREMISE Quantifying how closely related plant species differ in susceptibility to insect herbivory is important for our understanding of variation in plant-insect ecological interactions and evolutionary pressures on plant functional traits. However, empirically measuring in situ variation in herbivory over the entire geographic range where a plant-insect complex occurs is logistically difficult. Recently, new methods have been developed to use herbarium specimens to investigate patterns in plant-insect interactions across geographic areas, and during periods of accelerating anthropogenic change. Such investigations can provide insights into changes in herbivory intensity and phenology in plants that are of ecological and agricultural importance. METHODS Here, we analyze 274 pressed herbarium samples from all 14 species in the economically important plant genus Cucurbita (Cucurbitaceae) to investigate variation in herbivory damage. This collection is comprised of specimens of wild, undomesticated Cucurbita that were collected from across their native range in the Neotropics and subtropics, and Cucurbita cultivars that were collected from both within their native range and from locations where they have been introduced for agriculture in temperate Eastern North America. RESULTS We find that herbivory is common on individuals of all Cucurbita species collected from throughout their geographic ranges; however, estimates of herbivory varied considerablymore »among individuals, with greater damage observed in specimens collected from unmanaged habitat. We also find evidence that mesophytic species accrue more insect damage than xerophytic species. CONCLUSIONS Our study demonstrates that herbarium specimens are a useful resource for understanding ecological interactions between domesticated crop plants and co-evolved insect herbivores.« less
  2. Abstract
    Reproductive character displacement has long been hypothesized to be a key determinant of speciation and co-existence in flowering plants. A central tenet of this hypothesis is that reproductive traits of close relatives growing in sympatry diverge more than they do where close relatives do not grow together. However, this idea remains untested across taxa and at large spatial scales. Here, we use data collected from tens of thousands of herbarium specimens to examine evidence for character displacement in flowering time for 91 closely-related pairs of animal-pollinated angiosperm species in the eastern USA. We see no evidence for overall phenological divergence in sympatry across regions, clades, or life histories. Rather our results indicate widespread convergence of flowering times in sympatry for species pairs that generally tend to flower close in time. We also find that climate change could alter the nature of these convergent flowering events by shifting them further apart in a majority species pair comparisons. Specifically, congeneric species in New England and the Atlantic Coastal Plain are projected to flower 2–4 days further apart, on average, by the mid-21st century as warming temperatures drive species-specific phenological shifts within genera. This may have significant consequences for species interactions andMore>>
  3. Abstract
    Phenology––the timing of life-history events––is a key trait for understanding responses of organisms to climate. The digitization and online mobilization of herbarium specimens is rapidly advancing our understanding of plant phenological response to climate and climatic change. The current common practice of manually harvesting data from individual specimens greatly restricts our ability to scale data collection to entire collections. Recent investigations have demonstrated that machine-learning models can facilitate data collection from herbarium specimens. However, present attempts have focused largely on simplistic binary coding of reproductive phenology (e.g., flowering or not). Here, we use crowd-sourced phenological data of numbers of buds, flowers, and fruits of more than 3000 specimens of six common wildflower species of the eastern United States (Anemone canadensis, A. hepatica, A. quinquefolia, Trillium erectum, T. grandiflorum, and T. undulatum} to train a model using Mask R-CNN to segment and count phenological features. A single global model was able to automate the binary coding of reproductive stage with greater than 90% accuracy. Segmenting and counting features were also successful, but accuracy varied with phenological stage and taxon. Counting buds was significantly more accurate than flowers or fruits. Moreover, botanical experts provided more reliable data than either crowd-sourcers orMore>>
  4. Abstract
    Phenology is a key biological trait of an organism’s success and is one of the best indicators of its response to recent climate change. Plants are among the most well-studied organisms in this regard, but observational data bearing on this topic are largely restricted to woody species of the northern hemisphere, mostly from ca. the last three decades. Recent research has demonstrated that mobilized online herbarium specimens provide important, albeit mostly neglected, information on plant phenology. Here, we use the web tool CrowdCurio to crowdsource phenological data from more than 10,000 herbarium specimens representing 30 flowering plant species broadly distributed across the eastern United States. Our results, spanning 120 years and generated from over 2,000 crowdsourcers, clarify numerous aspects of plant phenology. First, they reveal that plant reproductive phenology is significantly advancing in response to warming, which is consistent with previous studies. Second, among those species with broad latitudinal ranges, populations from more southern latitudes are significantly more phenologically sensitive to temperature than those from northern populations. Last, contrary to some recent findings, plants in warmer, less variable climates may be much more dynamic, on average, in their phenological sensitivity. Our results are robust to a variety of confoundingMore>>