José Carlos Mendes Santos (a.k.a. Louro) is a handyman in rural northeastern Bahia, Brazil - one of the areas of the world with the highest biodiversity.
Two years ago, he found a tiny, inch-high plant with white-and-pink flowers in the backyards of the off-the-grid house of amateur botanist and local plant collector Alex Popovkin. The little plant was brought home to be grown on a window sill for closer observation. In parallel, work on its identification began. Thanks to solar power and a satellite connection, Popovkin had access to the Internet, and as was his habit, he uploaded some photographs of the plant to Flickr and contacted several taxonomic experts around the globe.
The family (strychnine family, or Loganiaceae) and genus (Spigelia) of the plant were soon established, with a suggestion from a Brazilian botanist that it might be a new species.
Mr. Popovkin: This is my first botanical publication in a peer-reviewed journal. Hopefully, there will be more to follow. I had since early adolescence felt attraction to plants, especially tropical plants, when working as a volunteer at the greenhouses of the Botanic Garden of the University of St Petersburg, Russia. It took me 30 years to realize my dream of living in the tropics and studying its plants up close. My daily botanizing walks always bring personal discoveries. My help and local fellow collector Louro has also shown great interest in botany.
"It is very easy to think we have found and described most plant species of the world already, but this discovery shows that there are so much left out there without name and recognition", says Struwe and adds, "This discovery shows that the most amazing living things can be found when you least expect it, during times and places when you really aren't looking for something new, and suddenly it is right there in front of you. How many of us haven't had the most brilliant ideas in the shower? The art of taxonomy is finding as well as being able to recognize something as new or different, which is hard when the world is home to millions of species and very few species experts."
This case shows that collaboration between amateurs and professional scientists, using both new molecular and traditional methods and making use of the facilities of the Internet can lead to new discoveries and new efficient ways of documenting the world's biodiversity.
Photographs of Spigelia genuflexa taken by Alex Popovkin are available under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC BY 2.0) from Flickr.
A link to the Press Release on Pensoft's website, in Portuguese.
Original source: Popovkin AV, Mathews KG, Santos JCM, Molina MC, Struwe L (2011) Spigelia genuflexa (Loganiaceae), a new geocarpic species from the Atlantic forest of northeastern Bahia, Brazil. PhytoKeys 6: 47-65. doi: 10.3897/phytokeys.6.1654
Posted by Pensoft Publishers.
Lena Struwe | EurekAlert!
'Lipid asymmetry' plays key role in activating immune cells
20.02.2018 | Biophysical Society
New printing technique uses cells and molecules to recreate biological structures
20.02.2018 | Queen Mary University of London
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
20.02.2018 | Life Sciences
20.02.2018 | Medical Engineering
20.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy