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Douglas W. Yu
Highest Education 
Kunming Institute of Zoology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences No. 32 Jiaochang Donglu, Kunming, Yunnan, 650223, P.R.China
   +86 871 5199178
Zip Code  
   +86 871 5199178
Research Interest:
We are interested in the Conservation biology of tropical forests and the Evolution and ecology of mutualism. In the first area, we have developed new methods for projecting the impact of hunting on large vertebrates in Amazonian forests. In the second, we have been elucidating the mechanisms stabilizing cooperation in fig-wasp and ant-plant mutualisms.

Public Services:

Supported Projects:
The evolution and ecology of mutualisms

Figs and fig wasps: Fig wasps pollinate fig plants, but the wasps also lay eggs in seeds, so the plant must somehow limit wasp reproduction, even though we expect wasps to evolve faster than the plants. We
developed a model to explain how the mutualism is maintained. Optimally foraging wasp choose high-profit ovules in which to oviposit. We have shown that wasps avoid the fig's outer ovules, which have a higher probability of being attacked by parasitoid wasps. This allows those ovules to turn into seeds, preserving the female component of fig fitness. In addition, outer ovules require more time for oviposition, and female offspring in outer ovules are less likely to be mated. In summary, we show how cooperation between two species can be maintained by a third species, even one that is normally considered parasitic. This result has important implications for many mutualisms, because most mutualisms involve multiple species, including parasites, but most of the theory includes only two species. We are now investigating the mechanisms that limit wasp lifespans inside the fig.

Economic theory of information: My colleagues and I are now trying to create a new theory of mutualism. This work originally started with ant-plant mutualisms. Hundreds of species of tropical plants house symbiotic ants, which, in return, attack herbivores by patrolling leaves. Plants cannot monitor ant patrolling effort directly, but our experiments show that plants kill off structures used for ant housing if too much leaf area is lost to herbivores, punishing the failure to patrol successfully . Leaf area is therefore a signal correlated with patrolling effort. A parallel example in humans is the promotion system in academia, which uses publications to judge scientific effort and quality.
There is a body of theory in economics that models this type of interaction, the economics of information. Each plant hires an ant colony ‘agent’ under a payment scheme that resembles a human employment contract. In 2007, based on this idea, I initiated and led a successful six-country consortium grant proposal to the European Science Foundation (BIOCONTRACT: The Evolution of Cooperation and Trading, www.esf.org/tect). We are writing models to understand when hosts can and cannot successfully punish or reward symbionts and how much, when hosts can cause symbionts to “self-screen” so that only mutualistic symbionts evolve to enter the host, and when symbionts can signal their cooperative nature to potential hosts.
In earlier work, my colleagues and I used an ant-plant symbiosis to develop and test the first successful spatial ecology model of species coexistence. The next step is to use this characterized system to test ways in which we can exploit spatial genetic structure to infer dispersal distances.
Recent and current lab members (The ECEC was established in late 2008).

Selected Publication:


1. Levi, T., Shepard, G.H., Ohl-Schacherer, J.,Peres, C.A.,Yu, D. W. 2009. Modelling the long-term sustainability of indigenous hunting in Manu National Park, Peru: landscape-scale management implications for Amazonia. Journal of Applied Ecology.46(4): 804-814.
2. Wang, R.W., Ridley, J., Sun, B.F., Zheng, Q., Dunn, D.W., Cook, J., Shi, L., Zhang, Y.P., Yu, D.W. 2009. Interference Competition and High Temperatures Reduce the Virulence of Fig Wasps and Stabilize a Fig-Wasp Mutualism. Plos One.4(11): e7802 3. * Edwards, D. P., M. Hassall, W. J. Sutherland and D. W. Yu (2006). Selection for protection in ant-plant mutualism:  host sanctions, host modularity, and the principal-agent game. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 273: 595-602. 4. * Yu, D.W., Wilson, H.B., Frederickson, M.E., Palomino, W., De la Colina, R., Edwards, D.P. & Balareso A.A. (2004a) Experimental demonstration of species coexistence enabled by dispersal limitation.  Journal of Animal Ecology 73,. Dunn, D., Yu1102-1114. 

5. * Yu, D. W., J. Ridley, E. Jousselin, E. A. Herre, S. G. Compton, J. M. Cook, J. C. Moore, G.D. Weiblen. (2004b) Oviposition strategies, host coercion, and the stable exploitation of figs by wasps.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 271, 1185–1195.

6. Debout, G.D.G., Frederickson, M., Aron, S., Yu D.W. 2010. Unexplained split sex ratios in the neotropical plant-ant, Allomerus octoarticulatus var. demerarae (myrmicinae): a test of hypotheses. Evolution 64(1): 126-141.

7. Andràs  Szilàgyi, Istvàn Scheuring, David P. Edwards, Jerome Orivel, Douglas W. Yu. 2009. The evolution of intermediate castration virulence and ant coexistence in a spatially structured environment. Ecol Lett 12: 1-11.

8. Endo W., Peres, C.A., Salas,E., Mori, S., Sanchez-Vega, J.L., Shepard Glenn H., Victor Pacheco, and Yu D.W. Game Vertebrate Densities in Hunted and Nonhunted Forest Sites in Manu National Park, Peru. Biotropica. 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2009.00546.x

9. Edwards, D.P., Frederickson, M.E., Shepard, G.H., Yu, D. W. 2009. A Plant Needs Ants like a Dog Needs Fleas: Myrmelachista schumanni Ants Gall Many Tree Species to Create Housing. American Naturalist. 174(5): 734-740.

10. Abraão, M., Shepard, G.H., Nelson, B.W., Baniwa, J. C., Andrello, G., D.W. Yu (in press) Baniwa Vegetation Classification in the White-Sand Campinarana Habitat of the Northwest Amazon.  In. Landscape Ethnoecology (eds. L.M. Johnson & E. Hunn).
11. Shepard, G.H., Rummenhoeller, K., Ohl-Schacherer, J., Yu, D.W. (in press) Trouble in Paradise: Indigenous populations, anthropological policies, and biodiversity conservation in Manu National Park, Peru. Journal of Sustainable Forestry.
12. Fisher, B., K. Turner, M. Zylstra, R. Brouwer, R. de Groot, S. Farber, P. Ferraro, R. Green, D. Hadley, J. Harlow, P. Jefferiss, C. Kirkby, P. Morling, S. Mowatt, R. Naidoo, J. Paavola, B. Strassburg, D. W. Yu, and A. Balmford. (2009) Integrating Ecosystem Services and Economic Theory: what can we do, what should we do, and what has been done? Ecological Applications 18: 2050-2067.
13. Edwards, D.P. and Yu, D.W. Tolerating castration by hiding flowers in plain sight. (2008) Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63: 95-102.
14. Abraão, M., Baniwa, J.C., Nelson, B.W., Andrello, G., Yu, D.W. & Shepard, G.H. (2008) Ethnobotanical Ground-Truthing of Baniwa Landscape Knowledge in the White-Sand Campinarana Forests of the Upper Rio Negro, Brazil.  Journal of Biogeography 35: 2237-2248.
15, D.W., Ridley, J., Cook, J.M. (2008b) Longevity, size and early emergence in a pollinating fig wasp – implications for the stability of the fig-pollinator mutualism. Journal of Animal Ecology 77: 927-935.
16. Bush, A.A., Yu, D.W., Herberstein, M.E. (2008) Function of bright colouration in the Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi (Araneae: Araneidae). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 275: 1337-1342.
17. Ohl, J., Mannigel, E., Kirkby, C., Shepard Jr., G.H., Yu, D.W. (2008) Indigenous ecotourism in the Amazon: A case study of ‘Casa Machiguenga’ in Manu National Park, Peru. Environmental Conservation 35: 14-25.
18. Yu, D.W., Proulx, S.M., Shepard, G.H. (2008) Masculinity, marriage and the paradox of the lek. pp. 88-107 in The Body Beautiful (eds. V. Swami & A. Furham). New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
19. Ohl, J., Wezel, A., Shepard Jr., G.H., Yu, D.W. (2007) Swidden agriculture in a human-inhabited protected area: The Matsigenka native communities of Manu National Park, Peru.  Environment, Development, and Sustainability 10: 827-843.
20. Edwards, D.P., R. Arauco, M. Hassall, W. J. Sutherland, K. Chamberlain, L. J. Wadham, and D. W. Yu. (2007a) Protection in an ant-plant mutualism: an adaptation or a sensory trap? Animal Behaviour 74: 377-385.
21. Edwards, D.P. & Yu, D.W. (2007b) The roles of sensory traps in the origin, maintenance, and breakdown of mutualism. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61:1321-1327.
22. Debout, G. D. G., Ventelon-Debout, G., Emerson, B. C. & Yu, D. W. (2007) PCR primers for polymorphic microsatellite loci in the plant-ant Azteca ulei var. cordiae (Formicidae: Dolichoderinae). Molecular Ecology Notes 7: 607-609.
23. da Silva, M.N., Shepard Jr., G.H., Yu, D.W. (2005, appeared in 2007) Conservation implications of primate hunting practices among the Matsigenka of Manu National Park. Neotropical Primates 13(2): 31-36.
24. Debout, G. D. G., Pereyra, R., Emerson, B. C. & Yu, D. W. (2006) Characterisation of polymorphic microsatellites in the castration parasite plant-ant Allomerus octoarticulatus cf. demerarae (Formicidae: Myrmicinae). Molecular Ecology Notes 6: 182-184.
25. Edwards, D.P., Arauco, R., Hassall, M., Sutherland, W.J., Yu, D.W. (2006) Assembling a mutualism: ant symbionts locate their host plants by detecting volatile chemicals. Insectes Sociaux 53: 172-176.
26. Ridley, J, DW Yu and WJ Sutherland (2005). Why long-lived species are more likely to be social: the role of local dominance. Behavioral Ecology 16: 358-363.
27. Shepard, G.H., D.W. Yu, B. Nelson, M. Lizarralde & M. Italiano. (2004) Ethnobotanical Ground-Truthing and Forest Diversity in the Western Amazon. In Ethnobotany and conservation of biocultural diversity (eds. L. Maffi, T. Carlson and E. López-Zent). New York: New York Botanical Gardens (Advances in Economic Botany).

28. Peres, C.A., Baider, C., Zuidema, P.A., Wadt, L.H.O., Kainer, K.A., Gomes-Silva, D.A.P., Salomão, R.P., Simões, L.L., Franciosi, E.R.N., Cornejo, F., Gribel, R., Shepard, G.H., Kanashiro, M., Coventry, P., Yu, D.W., Watkinson, A.R., & Freckleton, R.P. (2003) Demographic threats to the sustainability of Brazil nut exploitation. Science, 302, 2112-2114.
29. Yu, D.W., W. J. Sutherland, and C. Clark. 2002. Trade versus environment. TREE 17:341-344.
30. Yu, D. W., and J. Ridley. (2003) Geopolitics in a buttercup. TREE 18:163-165.
31. Shepard Jr., G. H., & D. W. Yu. (2001) Verificación etnobotánica de imágenes de satélite:  La intersección de conocimientos tradicionales y cientifícos. Debate Agrario 33: 19-24.
32. Yu, D. W., H. B. Wilson, N. E. Pierce. (2001) An empirical model of species coexistence in a spatially structured environment. Ecology 82: 1761–1771.
33. Yu, D. W. & H. B. Wilson. (2001) The competition-colonization tradeoff is dead. Long live the competition-colonization tradeoff American Naturalist, 158: 49–63.
34. Yu, D. W. (2001)  Parasites of mutualisms.  Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 72: 529–546.
35. Shepard Jr., G., D. W. Yu, M. Lizarralde, and M. Italiano. (2001) Rain forest habitat classification among the Matsigenka of the Peruvian Amazon.  Journal of Ethnobiology 21: 1-38.
36. Weiblen, G. D., D. W. Yu, and S. A. West. (2001) Pollination and parasitism in functionally dioecious figs.  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 268: 651-659.
37. Plotkin, J.B., M.D. Potts, D.W. Yu, S. Bunyvejchewin, R. Condit, R. Foster, S. Hubbell, J. LaFrankie, N. Manokaran, L.H. Seng, R. Sukumar, M.A. Nowak & P.S. Ashton. (2000) Predicting species diversity in tropical forests. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 97: 10850-10854.  (
38. Yu, D.W. & G.H. Shepard. (1999) The mystery of female beauty: Reply. Nature 399: 216.
39. Yu, D.W. & G.H. Shepard. (1998) Is beauty in the eye of the beholder? Nature 396: 321-322.
40. Yu, D.W., J.W. Terborgh & M.D. Potts. (1998) Can high tree species richness be explained by Hubbell's null model?  Ecology Letters 1: 193-199.
41. Yu, D. W., and N. E. Pierce. (1998) A castration parasite of an ant-plant mutualism. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 265: 375-382.  (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v392/n6673/full/392229a0.html))
42. Shea, K., Amarasekare, P., Kareiva, P., Mangel, M., Moore, J., Murdoch, W. W., Noonburg, E., Parma, A. M., Pascual, M. A., Possingham, H. P., Wilcox, C. & Yu, D., Management of populations in conservation, harvesting and control. TREE 13, 371-374 (1998).
43. Parma, A. M., Amarasekare, P., Mangel, M., Moore, J., Murdoch, W. W., Noonburg, E., Pascual, M. A., Possingham, H. P., Shea, K., Wilcox, C. & Yu, D. (1998) What can adaptive management do for our fish, forests, food, and biodiversity? Integrative Biology 1: 6-26.
44. Yu, D. W. & D. Quicke. (1997) Compsobraconoides (Braconidae: Braconinae), the first Hymenopteran ectoparasitoid of adult Azteca ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Hymenoptera Research 6: 419-421
45. Yu, D. W., T. Hendrickson & A. Castillo. (1997) Ecotourism in Peru: short-term and long-term challenges. Environmental Conservation 24: 130-138.
46. Yu, D.W. & D. W. Davidson. (1997) Experimental studies of species-specificity in Cecropia-ant relationships. Ecological Monographs 67: 273-294.
47. Terborgh, J. W., L. Lopez, J. Tello, D. W. Yu & A. R. Bruni. (1997) Transitory states in relaxing ecosystems of land-bridge islands. Pp. 256-274 in Tropical Forest Remnants: Ecology, Management, and Conservation of Fragmented Communities. (W. F. Laurance and R. O. Bierregaard, Jr., Eds., University of Chicago Press, Chicago).
48. Yu, D. W. (1995) New factor in free trade: Reply to Jenkins. Conservation Biology 10: 303-304.
49. Yu, D. W. (1994) Free trade is green. Protectionism is not. Conservation Biology 8: 989-996.
50. Yu, D. W. (1994) The structural role of epiphytes in ant gardens. Biotropica 26: 222-226.


Lab staff


Adress:No.32 Jiaochang Donglu Kunming 650223 Yunnan, China Tel:86-871-5199125