Guts and sugar: a tale in five convergences

Thu, Jan 27, 2022, 12:30 pm

The talk is a progress report on research that I presented in a job interview in Princeton 30 years ago. The 35-year old story examines explanations for a curious pattern: why is it that plants pollinated by hummingbirds (and we now know other specialized nectar-feeding birds) secrete nectar dominated by sucrose (table sugar), whereas those pollinated by non-specialized bird secrete nectar with glucose and fructose. The tale will span from the evolution of the ways in which vertebrates assimilate carbohydrates to coevolutionary convergence between plants and birds across continents. I will describe the hypothesis that have guided the research, why they were often wrong and, as often, how they were both wrong and useful. Then I will describe how sometimes one must wait for new technologies (in this case genomic and proteomic methods) to upend wrong hypotheses and to answer decades-old questions. 

Location: 
Virtual/Guyot 10
Audience: 
Open to public
Speaker(s): 
Audience: 

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