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Researchers explore ecological issues at annual meeting

ITHACA, N.Y. -- Fruit-eating fish in South America help disperse fruit trees during flood season. Fungi that attack sea fans get even nastier when the tropical waters warm by just a few degrees, and although sea fans counterattack with upgraded defenses, the fungi win out. A moth that attacks pine trees has expanded its range in the past three decades, and tests show that global warming is to blame.

These are just three of the research results that almost 50 Cornell University scientists will present at the Ecological Society of America's 90th annual meeting, Aug. 7-12, in Montreal. More than 4,000 people are expected to attend.

Below are some highlights of the work to be presented.

  • Fruit-eating fish in South America are so heavily fished that they may not be commercially viable in 20 years. Yet a new study by Cornell graduate student Jill Anderson and her adviser, Alexander Flecker, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology (EEB), find that fish that eat fruit not only are critical in dispersing fruit seeds during flood season -- carrying them five miles in three days in some cases -- but also deposit the seeds into flooded forests, where the seeds germinate much more quickly after the floods recede than seeds that remain in fruit pulp.

  • Corals such as seas fans are very sensitive to temperature fluctuations and are greatly stressed in today's oceans. Using one of the most thoroughly characterized coral-disease systems in the world in the Caribbean, Cornell graduate student Jessica Ward and her adviser, Drew Harvell, associate professor, EEB, have found that sea fans produce more potent antifungal compounds when the water temperature increases by just 3 degrees Fahrenheit. "But unfortunately for the sea fans, the fungus compensates for this increase in potency by growing faster and therefore overwhelming the efforts of the sea fans to fight them off," said Ward. "This indicates that very small changes in temperature can hav
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  • Contact: Blaine P. Friedlander Jr.
    bpf2@cornell.edu
    607-254-8093
    Cornell University News Service
    27-Jul-2005


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