The Ornaments of Life Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics
by Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Cloth: 978-0-226-25340-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-25341-1 | Electronic: 978-0-226-02332-8
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.001.0001
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

The average kilometer of tropical rainforest is teeming with life; it contains thousands of species of plants and animals. As The Ornaments of Life reveals, many of the most colorful and eye-catching rainforest inhabitants—toucans, monkeys, leaf-nosed bats, and hummingbirds to name a few—are an important component of the infrastructure that supports life in the forest. These fruit-and-nectar eating birds and mammals pollinate the flowers and disperse the seeds of hundreds of tropical plants, and unlike temperate communities, much of this greenery relies exclusively on animals for reproduction.
            Synthesizing recent research by ecologists and evolutionary biologists, Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress demonstrate the tremendous functional and evolutionary importance of these tropical pollinators and frugivores. They shed light on how these mutually symbiotic relationships evolved and lay out the current conservation status of these essential species. In order to illustrate the striking beauty of these “ornaments” of the rainforest, the authors have included a series of breathtaking color plates and full-color graphs and diagrams.  

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Theodore H. Fleming is professor emeritus of biology at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida.  W. John Kress is curator and research botanist as well as director of the Consortium for Understanding and Sustaining a Biodiverse Planet at the Smithsonian Institution. 

REVIEWS

“Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress here bring together current knowledge of the ecology and evolution of vertebrate-plant mutualisms, from biogeography and energetics through species proliferation and conservation. They’ve analyzed the reciprocal ‘fine-tuning’ between bird-pollinated flowers and nectarivorous birds, or fruits and seed dispersers, on a worldwide scale and in the context of molecular-clock dated phylogenies, resulting in an unrivaled synthesis.” 
— Susanne Renner, Ludwig-Maximilans-Universität

“Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress provide an around-the-world tour of tropical flowers and fruits, and mutual dependency between the plants that produce them and the animals that visit them.  The rich blend of natural history and evolutionary ecology yields many new insights about origins and importance of these ‘ornaments’ to tropical ecosystems.  This book will spark the imagination and curiosity of anyone interested in the beauty of nature.” 
— Douglas Levey, National Science Foundation

"The most extensive synthesis of tropical plant-animal interactions ever published."
— The Plant Press: A quarterly newsletter from the Dept. of Botany and the US National Herbarium

"This lovely paperback presents a comprehensive and absorbing survey of coevolution and conservation in the tropics. It covers such interesting subjects as mutualism in pollination and frugivory, the phylogeny and biogeography of mutualism, and macroevolutionary consequences of pollen and seed dispersal. Printed on heavy glossy paper, filled with many full-colour photographs, diagrams, tables and data graphs, this meticulously researched book also includes two appendices, 74 pages of references, and separate indices listing subjects and species. This scholarly work can be used as a university-level textbook, as a reference, or as a guide for self-study."
— GrrlScientist, Guardian (UK)

“The title of this splendid, important book is taken from a paper published in 1977 that suggested animals such as birds and mammals are of little fundamental importance in plant dynamics in the tropics, and thus are mere ‘ornaments’ rather than integral to community function. Fleming and Kress seek to dispel that notion, and they do so with great skill and fine detail. . . . This book, well supported by tables, figures, and photographs, is an important contribution to tropical biology and deserves a wide readership. Highly recommended.”
— J. C. Kricher, Wheaton College, Choice

“Tropical forests around the world are the scene in which each day, and every night, hundreds of species of plants, birds, and mammals interact positively with each other. As part of foraging, animals assist in pollination and seed dispersal. Such interactions, which involve many of the most spectacular animals of the tropics, true ornaments of life, represent a significant part of the functioning of the terrestrial ecosystems that harbor the highest biodiversity on the planet. . . . Never before has been the titanic task of compiling the extant knowledge on such tropical vertebrate-plant mutualistic interactions so well crafted and exceptionally timely as in this volume.”
— Danny Rojas, Quarterly Review of Biology

“Biotic interactions are biodiversity’s wireframe, and Fleming and Kress carefully dissect their structure and coevolution. . . . The Ornaments of Life offers a magisterial perspective of the ecological intricacies and genetic consequences of these mutualisms and their outcomes.”
— Pedro Jordano, BioScience

“The distinguished duo of Batman (Fleming) and Heliconia­-man (Kress) apply their combined 70 years of research on plant-animal interactions to argue that these species are so much more than visually appealing ornaments in tropical ecosystems.  . . . Such interactions may seem like a quaint subset of ecology, but the authors make a convincing argument that these mutualisms form a vital part of the ecology of tropical ecosystems and have been an important driver of the evolutionary diversification of plants and vertebrates throughout the tropics. . . . The Ornaments of Life is required reading for anyone interested in acquiring advanced understanding of tropical ecology, pollination biology, fruit/seed dispersal, hummingbirds, other nectar feeders, bats, and primates, and evolution of mutualisms. The novel insights and thoroughness of analysis that the authors bring to the topic are guaranteed to force readers to think about and study these interactions in new and diverse ways.”
— Scott W. Shumway, Wheaton College, Ecology

“A milestone contribution to our understanding animal-plant coevolution and coevolutionary phenomena in general. . . . Fleming and Kress’s book is worth recommending to a broad circle of readers who are interested in evolution and ecology as well as in tropical birds, bats and primates. The book is a rich trove of knowledge for everybody and a great source of inspiration for evolutionary ecologists with a penchant for theorizing.”
— Andrzej Elzanowski, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Acta Chiropterologica

“In this impressive tome, Fleming and Kress provide us with an absorbing overview of the ecology and evolution of pollen and seed dispersal mutualisms in the tropics, delving into their ecology and development through evolutionary time. . . . An expertly written, comprehensive introduction.”
— Kym Ottewell, Science and Conservation, Department of Parks and Wildlife, Western Australia, Australia, Journal of Field Ornithology

“What a delightful scholarly and well-presented work! The habit of considering the conservation of species as if they were independent of all others remains ingrained in many biodiversity specialists who focus on particular groups of organisms. This book should help dispel that myth in relation to tropical plants and vertebrates.”
— Biodiversity and Conservation

TABLE OF CONTENTS

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0001
[species diversity, resource availability, plant-visiting birds, mammals, food plants, speciation rates, mutualisms, pollination, pollinators]
This chapter describes the organization and structure of the book. The first section examines regional and local species diversity patterns as well as patterns of resource availability and the functional (ecological) relationships between plant-visiting birds and mammals and their food plants. The second section examines the impact of plant-visiting vertebrates on speciation rates of their food plants and the effect of food plants on speciation rates of vertebrate nectar and fruit eaters. The third section synthesizes the ecological and evolutionary consequences of these mutualisms and discusses their conservation implications. The chapter also provides a brief taxonomic overview of vertebrate pollinator and frugivore mutualisms, and discusses the basic features of pollination and seed dispersal mutualisms. (pages 1 - 23)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0002
[regional diversity, community diversity, species richness, plant and animal mutualists, biogeographic regions]
This chapter discusses patterns of regional and community diversity. It addresses the following questions: how does the diversity, defined simply as number of species or species richness of these plant and animal mutualists, differ among biogeographic regions, including islands, and along gradients of temperature, rainfall, and elevation? What is the diversity and structure of local communities of these plant and animal mutualists? To what extent does community structure differ in different biogeographic regions? Do quantitative community assembly rules exist for these plant and animal mutualists, and, if so, are these rules the same in different biogeographic regions? (pages 24 - 62)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0003
[tropical birds, plant-visiting birds, mammals, nectar, fruit, nutrition biomass, pollinators, seed dispersers, nutritional characteristics, food plants]
Tropical plant-visiting birds and mammals feed on two distinctly different resources: nectar and fruit. This chapter describes the basic nutritional characteristics of the nectar and fruit resource bases and how the availability of these resources varies temporally and spatially. It presents quantitative estimates of the biomass of these resources within communities and the biomass of vertebrate nectarivores and frugivores that they support. It begins by summarizing data on the extent to which tropical plants rely on birds and mammals as their primary or exclusive pollinators and seed dispersers. (pages 63 - 106)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0004
[tropical birds, mammals, tropical habitats, reproductive success, food plants, foraging, vertebrates, frugivores, mutualists]
This chapter describes general patterns of pollen and seed dispersal by tropical birds and mammals, and discusses their ecological and genetic consequences for plants. It addresses the following questions: how important are nectar- and fruit-eating birds and mammals in the economy of tropical habitats? To what extent does the reproductive success of their food plants depend on the foraging behavior of plant-visiting vertebrates? How do nectar-feeding vertebrates affect fruit and seed set, mating patterns, and gene flow in their food plants, and how do frugivores influence the density, dispersion, and genetic structure of their food plants? If these mutualists were to disappear, how much would this affect the population and community dynamics of tropical plants? (pages 107 - 169)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0005
[macroevolution, plant-visiting tropical vertebrates, food plants, tropical birds, mammals, mutualists, speciation, diversifcation]
This chapter discusses the macroevolutionary consequences of interactions between plant-visiting tropical vertebrates and their food plants. It addresses the following questions: to what extent have tropical birds and mammals influenced rates of speciation and diversification in their food plants? Do plant clades that are pollinated or dispersed by tropical birds and mammals contain more species than sister clades that lack vertebrate pollination or dispersal? How do these mutualists influence speciation in their food plants and to what extent is coevolution involved in the speciation process? How have these interactions influenced speciation and diversification of tropical plant-visiting birds and mammals? (pages 170 - 208)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0006
[evolutionary history, geographic distribution, tropical plants, mutualists, vertebrate pollination, seed dispersal mutualisms]
This chapter discusses the evolutionary histories and geographic distributions of tropical plants and their vertebrate mutualists. It addresses the following questions: how widespread are vertebrate pollination and seed dispersal mutualisms in the phylogenies of angiosperms, birds, and mammals? How many times have these mutualisms evolved independently in these groups? To what extent is the evolution of pollination and seed dispersal mutualisms congruent or noncongruent in these phylogenies? Where have these mutualisms evolved? Are there evolutionary “hotspots” for these mutualisms and are these hotspots congruent for both mutualisms? And what are the temporal patterns of the evolution of these mutualisms and are these patterns congruent for both mutualisms? How long have specific groups of plants and their vertebrate mutualists been interacting? (pages 209 - 264)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0007
[plants, pollinators, mutualists, phylogenetic variation, flower syndromes, vertebrate pollination, adaptations, nectar-feeding birds, mammals]
This chapter discusses the pollination mutualism between tropical and subtropical plants and their avian and mammalian pollinators, and its evolution. It covers general trends associated with the evolution of vertebrate-pollinated flowers and geographic and historical (phylogenetic) variation in these trends; pollinator diversification and flower evolution in the tropics; the evolution of flower characteristics; and the evolution of nectar-feeding vertebrates. (pages 265 - 334)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0008
[convergence, complementarity, fruit-producing plants, frugivorous animals, Neotropical bats, evolution]
This chapter discusses the concepts of convergence and complementarity as they apply to fruit-producing plants and frugivorous animals. It begins with an overview of Neotropical bats and the fruits they consume. It then examines the evolution and adaptation of fruits and their vertebrate consumers. The fruit-frugivore mutualism is pervasive in tropical and subtropical habitats around the world. There is considerable evidence on both the plant and animal side of this mutualism that it has had a profound impact on the evolution of specific traits found in fruits and frugivores. (pages 335 - 392)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0009
[ecology, evolution, vertebrate pollination, seed dispersal, frugivores, pollinators]
This chapter summarizes the previous chapters in order to identify major patterns in the ecology and evolution of vertebrate pollination and seed-disperser mutualisms. It begins by reviewing the ecological, phylogenetic, and geographic structure of contemporary communities of vertebrate pollinators and frugivores. It then discusses the evolution of these communities and their species and traits. The structure of contemporary assemblages provides important insights into past evolutionary events, based on the assumption that evolutionary niche conservatism is widespread in lineages of these plants and animals. (pages 393 - 440)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Theodore H. Fleming, W. John Kress
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226023328.003.0010
[conservation, plant-visiting vertebrates, ecological impact, mutualisms, vertebrates, food plants]
This chapter reviews the conservation status of plant-visiting vertebrates and the ecosystem services they provide. It describes their major threats and their ecological consequences, and offers an overview of how these threats can be mitigated. It begins with a discussion of three recent studies that illustrate the ecological consequences of disrupted mutualistic interactions between vertebrates and their food plants. (pages 441 - 484)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online