AE Profile: Antonio José Manzaneda

AJM1We’re happy to introduce another member of our editorial board, Antonio José Manzaneda. Antonio is based at the University of Jaén, Spain, and is a plant evolutionary ecologist whose work focusses on the evolution of complex traits with a relevant ecological function in the context of adaptation. Read more about his research below.

Estimados colegas, aquí abajo os pongo algunas líneas sobre las investigaciones que he venido desarrollando durante mi carrera profesional como ecólogo evolutivo. Destaco algunas de las publicaciones sobre hormigas y semillas que realicé durante mi doctorado en la Sierra de Cazorla y otros parques naturales de España, mi trabajo sobre Boechera y sus herbívoros con Tom Mitchell-Olds en las Montañas Rocosas, y también de mi trabajo con Brachypodium y el significado evolutivo y ecológico de rasgos funcionales en este complejo de especies. Espero disfrutéis y que ayude a que conozcáis un poco mejor mi trabajo.

Un saludo cordial.


From PhD…

Worker of the ant species Camponotus cruentatus trying to remove H. foetidus diaspores in a cafeteria experiment designed to evaluate ant-seed dispersal rates.
Worker of the ant species Camponotus cruentatus trying to remove H. foetidus diaspores in a cafeteria experiment designed to evaluate ant-seed dispersal rates.

During my career, I have had a broad interest in different questions relating to plant ecology and evolution. During my PhD, conducted at Doñana Biological Station (CSIC, Seville, Spain), I was interested in the ecological consequences of geographical variations in the ant-seed dispersal mutualism (i.e., myrmecochory), I especially evaluated the result of spatial variations on the ecological specialization of such interaction (Manzaneda and Rey 2009, 2012), and the ecological advantages derived from myrmecochory (e.g., Manzaneda et al., 2005; Manzaneda and Rey 2012) in the study system Helleborus foetidus (Ranunculaceae) and its ant dispersers across a geographical gradient in Spain. From these studies, I realized how variable the ecological outcomes of ant-plant mutualisms are across spatial scales, and how this fact may contribute to maintaining variation in seed dispersal-related traits (e.g., Rey and Manzaneda 2007). An important conclusion derived from my PhD work on this system was that myrmecochory, which is regarded as a predominantly generalized interaction, is in some systems, a specialized interaction in which intrinsic traits of the plant, rather than the ecological context in which the interaction takes place, determine dispersal success (Manzaneda and Rey 2009).


To post-doc

Trichoplusia ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) larvae feeding on a B. stricta plant.
Trichoplusia ni (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) larvae feeding on a B. stricta plant.

Later, during my post-doc period at Mitchell-Olds lab at Duke University, I sought to answer the general question of which ecological and evolutionary forces promote and maintain the natural variation that often exists in complex traits among and within natural plant populations. First, I focused on genetic variation of plant defense traits as glucosinolates in the study system Boechera stricta (Brassicaceae), a small mustard that grows in the Rocky Mountains, and its herbivores. We found significant genetic variation for tolerance to different types of herbivore. Structural variations in the glucosinolate profile did not influence tolerance to damage, but predicted plant fitness (Manzaneda et al., 2010). In the same project, we identified the genetic basis underlying plant defensive chemistry, damage by insect herbivores, and fitness in natural populations in this system (Prasad et al., 2012).


To the present

Spikelet of the allotetraploid B. hybridum
Spikelet of the allotetraploid B. hybridum

More recently, I was awarded a Marie Curie Fellowship that allowed to me to initiate and develop one of my current lines of research: the study of the evolution of complex traits of plants with a relevant ecological function in the plant model for temperate grasses, Brachypodium distachyon (Poaceae), in the context of adaptation and the ecological significance of polyploidy (i.e., whole genome duplication). Some findings from this research are:

  • There is an association between aridity and polyploidization occurrence (Manzaneda et al., 2012)
  • (Under water limitation, Brachypodium allotetraploids lineages maintain higher photosynthesis and stomatal conductance and show earlier flowering than diploids, concordant with a drought-escape strategy to cope with water stress (Manzaneda et al., 2015)
  • Under natural field conditions, allotetraploids have superior ecological success compared with one of their parental diploids in terms of both colonizing competitive habitats and intercytotypic competition (Rey et al., 2017).
Arid badlands where this species naturally occurs in southern Spain

Together, these findings suggest adaptive ecological divergence of Brachypodium polyploids in drier environments.

Finally, from the applied side, I am also interested in knowing how changes in land use are affecting taxonomic, genetic and functional diversity, species interactions and ecosystem services in agroecosystems (olive tree orchards) and in severely fragmented Ziziphus lotus (Rhamnaceae) populations in the Mediterranean. I am currently conducting my research in the Department of Animal Biology, Plant Biology and Ecology at the University of Jaen, in southern Spain, where I always welcome talented people interested in conducting research in any of the topics above described.


Recommended Readings

Although Functional Ecology contents are always exciting and enjoyable to read, I have a particularly pleasant memory of the following papers:


I am delighted to join the team at Functional Ecology and hope to contribute to the continued success of this excellent journal.


Anderson JT, Mitchell-Olds T. (2011). Ecological genetics and genomics of plant defenses: Evidence and approaches. Functional Ecology 25: 312–324.

Liancourt P, Tielbörger K. (2009). Competition and a short growing season lead to ecotypic differentiation at the two extremes of the ecological range. Functional Ecology 23: 397–404.

Manzaneda, A. J., P. J. Rey, J. T. Anderson, E. Raskin, C. Weiss-Lehman, and T. Mitchell-Olds. (2015). Natural variation, differentiation and genetic tradeoffs of ecophysiological traits in response to water limitation in Brachypodium distachyon and its descendent allotetraploid B. hybridum (Poaceae). Evolution 69: 2689-2704.

Manzaneda, A.J. and Rey, P.J. (2012). Geographical and interspecific variation and the nutrient-enrichment hypothesis: an adaptive advantage of myrmecochory. Ecography 35: 322-332.

Manzaneda, A.J., Rey, P.J., Bastida, J.M., Weiss-Lehman, T., Raskin, E. and Mitchell-Olds, T. (2012). Environmental aridity is associated with cytotype segregation and polyploidy occurrence in Brachypodium distachyon (Poaceae). New Phytologist 193: 797-805.

 Manzaneda, A.J., Prasad, K. V. S. K. and Mitchell-Olds, T. (2010). Variation and fitness costs for tolerance to different types of herbivore damage in Boechera stricta genotypes with contrasting glucosinolate structures. New Phytologist 188: 464-477.

Manzaneda, A.J. and Rey, P.J. (2009). Assessing ecological specialization of an ant-seed dispersal mutualism through a wide geographic range. Ecology 90: 3009-3022.

Manzaneda, A. J. and Rey, P.J. (2008). Geographic variation in seed removal of a myrmecochorous herb: influence of variation in functional guild and species composition of the disperser assemblage through spatial and temporal scales. Ecography 31: 583-591

Manzaneda, A.J., Fedriani, J.M. and Rey, P.J. (2005) Adaptive advantages of myrmecochory: the predator-avoidance hypothesis tested over a wide geographic range. Ecography 28: 583-592.

 Prasad, KVS, B-H Song, C Olson-Manning, JT Anderson, C-R Lee, ME Schranz, AJ Windsor, MJ Clauss, Manzaneda, A.J., I Naqvi, M Reichelt, J Gershenzon, SG Rupasinghe, MA Schuler, T Mitchell-Olds (2012). A novel gain-of-function polymorphism controlling complex traits and fitness in nature. Science 337: 1081-1084.

Rey, P.J. and Manzaneda, A.J. (2007) Geographic variation in the determinants of seed dispersal success of a myrmecochorous herb. Journal of Ecology 95: 1381-1393. 

Rey P.J., Manzaneda A.J. & Alcántara J.M. (2017) The interplay between aridity and competition determines colonization ability, exclusion and ecological segregation in heteroploid Brachypodium distachyon species complex. New Phytologist 215: 85-96.

Theodorou P, Albig K, Radzevičiūtė R, et al. (2017). The structure of flower visitor networks in relation to pollination across an agricultural to urban gradient. Functional Ecology 31: 838–847.






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