Strangers in a strange land

Key physiological innovations underpin radiation into hot, dry niches by the genus Seira (Collembola: Entomobryoidea: Seiridae)

The enormous species richness of the vascular plant in the Cape Floristic Region (CFR), located at the south-western tip of Africa, is among the most unusual in the world. They are thought to be a consequence of several factors including specific trait-environment interactions underpinning radiations in key lineages. The key question is whether such interactions have similarly led to the radiation in the invertebrate groups that are independent of specialised relationships with plants (i.e. herbivory or pollination) in the region. This project focussed on the genus Seira in the Collembola group.

To explore if the trait-environment interactions have underpinned the radiation of this genus in the CFR, my study investigates several key physiological traits (critical thermal tolerance and desiccation tolerance) of different Seira species in the fynbos and Southern Afrotemperate Forest habitats in a phylogenetic context, whilst also examine the microclimates of these habitats. I also explore the phylogenetic history of Seira species in the region by assessing if the diversification of Seira species is the outcome of adaptive radiation.

W. P. Amy Liu PhD candidate, Monash University, Australia.

Undescribed species in the fynbos of Outeniqua Nature Reserve

Supervisor: Prof. Steven L. Chown

Co-supervisors: Prof. John S. Terblanche, Dr Charlene Janion-Scheepers


Liu, W. P. A., Phillips, L. M., Terblanche, J. S., Janion-Scheepers, C., & Chown, S. L. (2020). Strangers in a strange land: Globally unusual thermal tolerance in Collembola from the Cape Floristic Region. Functional Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.13584

Phillips, L. M., Aitkenhead, I., Janion-Scheepers, C., King, C. K., McGeoch, M. A., Nielsen, U. N., Terauds, A., Liu, W. P. A. & Chown, S. L. (2020). Basal tolerance but not plasticity gives invasive springtails the advantage in an assemblage setting. Conservation Physiology, accepted.

Liu, W. P. A. & Janion-Scheepers, C. (2018). Discovering the “giants” under our feet. Rostrum: newsletter of the Entomological Society of southern Africa. Issue 97. Popular Article.

Liu, W. P. A., Janion, C. & Chown, S. L. (2012). Collembola Diversity in the Critically Endangered Cape Flats Sand Fynbos and Adjacent Pine Plantations. Pedobiologia, 55, 203-209. doi:10.1016/j.pedobi.2012.03.002.

Janion, C., Bedos, A., Bengtsson, J., Deharveng, L., Jansen van Vuuren, B., Leinaas, H. P., Liu, A., Malmström, A., Porco, D. & Chown, S. L. (2011). Springtail Diversity in South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 107, 75-81. doi: 10.4102/sajs.v107i11/12.582.

Undescribed species in the Southern Afrotemperate Forest of Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve

Undescribed species in the Southern Afrotemperate Forest of Jonkershoek Nature Reserve