Opening Presents

Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Caroline Chaboo

I specialize in chrysomelid leaf beetles. Chrysomelidae (about 40,000 species) forms one of the largest radiation of animals, and they present many interesting research problems. My approach is holistic, with extensive fieldwork to explore life histories, ecology, behavior, and laboratory study of morphology and molecules. In this part of Peru, I am particularly interested in chrysomelid that have become specialists of bamboo and bambusiform grasses, palms (at least the ones a 5-foot tall person can reach!) and a particular chrysomelid species that lives in unopened or slightly opened leaves of monocot plants in the Marantaceae and Heliconiaceae families. This latter group is particularly abundant here — nearly every rolled leaf has a few individuals of different species living in this tight semi-aquatic space. I like thinking of unrolling a leaf in the forest as opening a Christmas present —– which specimens, how many individuals, what is their feeding pattern?