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Research Interests

I am a Cullman Postdoctoral Associate at the Yale School of the Environment and the New York Botanical Garden. My research focuses on the Early divergent angiosperms species of Lauraceae and, more recently, on Myristicaceae. Both families are long-standing tropical forest components and constitute an essential part of diversity in lowland and montane ecosystems in the Neotropics. With large woody trees, both families have species with broad and narrow distributions, which facilitates exploring questions about the ecological driver, as breeding systems and seed dispersal, and its role in speciation at different scales.

Work in Progress

Species of Lauraceae are frequent in tropical and Andeans ecosystems. The complex taxonomy and the no-monophyly of most current genera usually prevent extensive and meticulous ecological and evolutionary studies in this family. To overcome this limitation, we resolved the deep relationships of Neotropical Lauraceae and used this phylogenetic framework to advance the taxonomy and ecology of the species. We started using phylogenetic definitions "PhyloCode" to promote studies that account for the relationship among species.  Currently, my work focuses on:

Fruit shape in Supraocotea
I am looking at the ratio length/wide in fruits of the Neotropical Supraocotea. Continuing Dr. Susan Mazer and Dr. Nathaniel Wheelwright's work in Costa Rica, I am using fruit measurements from digital images, species distributions, and a phylogenetic framework to explore the evolutive and ecological aspects that constrain the elliptical shape found in most species.
Biogeography of Supraocotea

Supraocotea has a disjunct distribution, with species in Madagascar, North America, and the Neotropics,  allowing us to explore niche conservatism hypotheses.

Anatomy supporting clades


Aiouea is a polyphyletic genus. The use of epidermal leaf characters has shown enough variation to recognize the three clades currently in Aiouea
Work in Progress


Taxonomical Revision of Virola (Myristicaceae) in Antioquia (Colombia)
Diana Marcela Montoya is a Master student at Universidad de Antioquia, and currently working on the species of Virola in Antioquia.

Virola is the largest Neotropical genus of Myristicaceae. Most studies have focused on Amazonian and Central American species, but Andean species are relatively understudied. Antioquia, a region with a diverse collection of ecosystems, has the ideal location to assess the diversity of Virola outside of the studied are. This work aims to provide taxonomic tools for better identification of Virola and improve the information about the species' distribution range

Taxonomical Revision of Persea for Colombia 
Juan Camilo Sanchez is working on the taxonomical revision for the species of Persea from Colombia.

Persea is one of the basal groups of neotropical Lauraceae. Although polyphyletic, morphological characters identify the species into two subgenera that coincide with clades found in molecular results. However, the absence of a taxonomic key makes difficult their recognition for amateur and professional botanists. With this, Juan Camilo will provide a morphological key for recognizing Persea species in Colombia and confidently pointing to the new taxa description.



Penagos Zuluaga, J.C., van der Werff, H. Park, B., Deren A. R., Comita, L.S., Queenborough, S.A, Donoghue, M. J. (2021). Restriction-site-associated DNA sequencing resolves the phylogenetic relationships in the Ocotea complex (Lauraceae): Phylogenetic classification and character evolution.
American Journal of Botany 108(4): 664-679.

Penagos Zuluaga, J.C., Queenborough, S.A., Comita L.S. 2020. Flowering sex ratios and costs of reproduction in gynodioecious Ocotea oblonga (Lauraceae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 131: 344-355.

Penagos, Zuluaga, J.C. & Madriñán, S. 2015. Lauraceae. in Bernal, R., S.R. Gradstein & M. Celis (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá.

Penagos Zuluaga, J.C. 2014. Koeberliniaceae Engl. En Jørgensen, P. M., M. H. Nee & S. G. Beck. 2014. Cat. Pl. Vasc. Bolivia, Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 127(1–2): i–viii, 1–1744. Missouri Botanical Garden Press, St. Louis.Jørgensen, P. M., M. H. Nee & S. G. Beck. (eds.).

Park, B., Sinnott-Armstrong, M., Schlutius, C., Penagos Zuluaga, J.C, Spriggs, E., Simpson, R.G, Benavides, E., Landis, M., Sweeney, P.W., Eaton, D.A.R., Donoghue, M.J., Eaton, D. A. R. 2019. Sterile marginal flowers increase visitation and fruit set in the hobblebush (Viburnum lantanoides, Adoxaceae) at multiple spatial scales, Annals of Botany, Volume 123, Issue 2 Pages 381–390.

Krishnadas, M., Beckman, N., Peñ(n)agos Zuluaga, J. C., Zhu, Y., Whitacre, J., Wenzel, J., Queenborough, S., Comita, L. 2018.cEnvironment and past land-use together predict functional diversity in a temperate forest. Ecological Applications. 28. 10.1002/eap.1802.

Oberle, B., Ogle, K., Penagos Zuluaga, J. C., Sweeney, J., & Zanne, A. 2016. A Bayesian model for xylem vessel length accommodates subsampling and reveals skewed distributions in species that dominate seasonal habitats. Journal of Plant Hydraulics, 3, e003.

Albrecht, M.A., Penagos Zuluaga, J.C. 2012. Seed germination ecology of three imperiled plants of rock outcrops in the southeastern United States. Torrey Botanical Society 139(1): 86-95. 

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