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Arnold Arboretum
Cary Pirone

Cary Pirone

Putnam Research Fellow

1300 Centre Street
Boston, MA 02131
Phone: 617.384.5631
Fax: 617.384.6596
Email

Education

PhD Biology, Florida International University
BS Biology, University of Maryland

I’m interested in how plants relate to each other and to other species, and how chemical signals mediate these interactions.

During my PhD studies, I determined the chemical structure of an unusual pigment, bilirubin, in the arils of Strelitzia nicolai, the White Bird of Paradise Tree. Previously, this orange-red tetrapyrrole was known only in mammals and some vertebrates as the breakdown product of heme. Subsequently, I identified this pigment in related species and in several diverse angiosperms. The function of bilirubin in plants is unknown, but it likely serves as a color signal to attract dispersers when present in high concentration.

My current research explores the complexities of gymnosperm reproduction. Specifically, I study the pollination drops (ovular secretions) of several conifer species and ginkgo. Secretions play a critical role in the reproductive success of gymnosperms as a mechanism to enhance the capture of pollen. Recent studies indicate that drops contain a complex mixture of ions and compounds, including proteins, which are also likely involved in other reproductive processes. I use biochemical and anatomical approaches to analyze the protein content of drops, examine pollen-ovule interactions across diverse taxa, and explore whether these interactions are chemically mediated.

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