Florian Karolyi from the Department of Integrative Zoology at the University of Vienna is the recipient of the second Arnold Berliner Award for his outstanding interdisciplinary work on the nectar feeding of flies with extremely elongated suction organs. The Arnold Berliner Award was established in 2013 in recognition of the founding editor of Springer's journal Naturwissenschaften – The Science of Nature, now starting its second century. The award is given annually for the best research article published in Naturwissenschaften during the previous calendar year and is given to the principal author of the article.
The extremely long, thin proboscis of insects from the genus Prosoeca (Nemestrinidae) evolved as an adaptation to feeding from long, tubular flowers. A suction pump in the fly's head creates a pressure gradient along the proboscis, which allows nectar uptake. Because proboscis length differs visibly among flies from the same species, Karolyi and his team therefore wondered if flies with longer "tongues" spent more time feeding on a flower because they had more trouble sucking up the nectar. They found the reverse to be true – a longer-proboscid fly has a more efficient two-part suction pump. The fly is thus able to take up more nectar in a single visit.
Sven Thatje, Editor-in-Chief of Naturwissenschaften, said, "Karolyi's study provides detailed insight into the energetic and functional adaptations required for long-proboscid nectar feeding and, as such, presents a significant advance to our understanding of the evolution of flower feeding. We are delighted to have published this exciting research in our journal Naturwissenschaften."
For his master's thesis in 2007, Karolyi wrote about the functional morphology of the mouthparts in the flower-visiting beetle Cetonia aurata. Later he studied the evolution of extremely long mouthparts in flower-visiting insects. Since 2010, he has participated on field trips to the Hantam National Botanical Garden in the Western Cape Province in South Africa, investigating the adaptations of long-proboscid flies to their host plants. He is currently writing up his research for his PhD.
Criteria for the Arnold Berliner Award are excellence in science, originality, and in particular interdisciplinarity, overall mirroring Berliner's motivation for initiating the journal in 1913. Berliner was editor-in-chief of the journal for an exceptionally long period of 22 years. His activities were influential and at the heart of academic life and society of his time.
Naturwissenschaften - The Science of Nature is Springer's flagship multidisciplinary science journal. Peer-reviewed and published in English, it is dedicated to the fast publication and global dissemination of high-quality research of interest to the broader community in the biological sciences. Papers from the chemical, geological and physical sciences, which contribute to questions of general biological significance, are published.
The article "Time management and nectar flow: flower handling and suction feeding in long-proboscid flies (Nemestrinidae: Prosoeca)" is freely available online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00114-013-1114-6