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Vinita Gowda

Vinita Gowda

Vinita Gowda

Research Associate

Phone: 202-633-0941
Fax: 202-786-2563
E-mail Address:

Postal Address
(Mail and Packages):

Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Courier Address:
National Museum of Natural History
West Loading Dock
10th and Constitution Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20560-0166

     Bachelor of Science in Biology from Mangalore University in 1997; Master of Science in Botany from Mangalore University in 1999; PhD from George Washington University 2009.

Areas of Specialty
     My primary interest is exploring co-evolutionary patterns between plants and their pollinators in the tropics, specifically within the monocot plant order Zingiberales. I have integrated a variety of approaches, including ecological, population genetics, and molecular phylogenetics to answer questions related to evolution of pollination traits in plants, and the role pollinators play in maintaining genetic diversity in tropical forests.
     I am currently working on the revision of plants from the subfamily Alpinioideae (Zingiberaceae) using molecular phylogenetic methods. Alpinioideae is a pantropical group with a dominant distribution in the South-East Asia. Their unique distribution across the South-East Asian archipelagos make them an ideal candidate to investigate questions related to biogeography and island colonization. Flowers within this subfamily are also highly variable and are pollinated by both vertebrate and invertebrate pollinators thus giving an opportunity to investigate evolution of pollination traits and syndromes using comparative phylogenetic comparative tools.
     For my doctoral dissertation, I investigated Heliconia-hummingbird interactions in the Eastern Caribbean islands along with Dr. W. John Kress and Dr. Ethan Temeles. Only two species of heliconias are native to the Eastern Caribbean islands: H. bihai and H. caribaea. Throughout the Eastern Caribbean islands both these heliconias are visited by many native hummingbird species, however the sexually dimorphic Eulampis jugularis (Purple-throated Carib hummingbirds) are known to be their primary pollinators. We tested the geographic mosaic theory of coevolution in the Eastern Caribbean system and found varying level of plant-pollinator interactions on different islands. We identified Dominica as the ‘hot spot’ of interaction where the plants and birds were highly dependent on each other as food resource and also as part of their mating repertoire. We also identified St. Vincent in the South as a different kind of ‘hot spot’ of interaction due to its unique female E. jugularis and H. bihai interactions. We finally designated St. Kitts in the North as the ‘cold spot’ of interaction because of the presence of multiple hummingbird species that were observed to legitimately visit the H. caribaea (Gowda & Kress 2012). We also looked at the role of pollinators in shaping population genetic structures of the plants using microsatellites (Gowda et al., 2012) and found that the territorially pollinated H. caribaea had higher inbreeding rates than the trap-line pollinated H. bihai (Gowda & Kress, submitted).

Field Work
     1998-2002: Western Ghats. Botanical exploration and collections for Mangalore University and Centre for Ecological Sciences.
     2003-2011: Caribbean Islands (Lesser Antilles). Pollination biology of the Caribbean heliconias and testing Geographic Mosaic theory of Coevolution in the Caribbean Heliconia-hummingbird interaction.
     2012-2013: Singapore. Pollination biology of native and invasive gingers on the island of Singapore.
     2003 and 2011: Costa Rica, Morphological variations in Costa Rican heliconias and gingers.

Web Page

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Recent Publications - (All Publications)

Gowda, Vinita and Kress, W. John 2013. A Geographic Mosaic of Plant–Pollinator Interactions in the Eastern Caribbean Islands. Biotropica, 45(2): 224-235. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2012.00915.x

Gowda, Vinita, Erickson, David L. and Kress, W. John 2012. Development and characterization of microsatellite loci for two Caribbean Heliconia (Heliconiaceae: H. bihai and H. caribaea). American Journal of Botany, 99(2): e81-e83. doi:10.3732/ajb.1100386

Gowda, Vinita, Kress, W. John and Htun, Thet 2012. Two new species of Gingers (Zingiberaceae) from Myanmar. Phytokeys, 13: 5-14. doi:10.3897/phytokeys.13.2670

Gowda, Vinita, Temeles, Ethan J. and Kress, W. John 2012. Territorial Fidelity to Nectar Sources by Purple-throated Caribs, Eulampis Jugularis. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 124(1): 81-86. doi:10.1676/11-061.1

Zhang, Liqin, Wang, Li, Gowda, Vinita, Wang, Ming, Li, Xifeng and Kan, Xianzhao 2012. The mitochondrial genome of the Cinnamon Bittern, Ixobrychus cinnamomeus (Pelecaniformes: Ardeidae): sequence, structure and phylogenetic analysis. Molecular Biology Reports, 39(8): 8315-8326. doi:10.1007/s11033-012-1681-1

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