Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Amateur botanists discover a genuflecting plant in Brazil

21.09.2011
Rutgers scientist part of international team to unearth unique tropical species

A new plant that buries its seeds, the first in its family, is discovered in the Atlantic forest of Bahia, Brazil, by an international team of scientists.

The new species, appropriately named Spigelia genuflexa, displays a particular and rare characteristic that gives it its name. After fruits are formed, the fruiting branches "bend down," depositing the capsules with seeds on the ground and sometimes burying them in the soft cover of moss, a phenomenon called geocarpy. This ensures that the seeds end up as close to the mother plant as possible, facilitating its propagation the following season. A famous example of geocarpy—a rare adaptation to growing in harsh or ephemeral environments, is the well-known peanut from the legume family that buries its fruits in the ground.

The discovery of Spigelia genuflexa was published on Sept. 14, in the scientific journal PhytoKeys, in an open-access paper available for free.

Amateur botanist Alex Popovkin knew right away that this was something brand new. He's inventoried, photographed and identified over 800 plant species so far on his property in Bahia, Brazil, one of the areas of the world with the highest biodiversity.

"It's taken me 30 years, from my days as a volunteer at the greenhouses of the Botanic Garden of the University of St. Petersburg, Russia, to realize my dream of living in the tropics and studying its plants up close," said Popovkin.

"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," said botanist Lena Struwe of Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

Struwe, a professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, is no stranger to unusual species descriptions. She's previously described a species in the gentian family from the Andes named after Harry Potter and another named after the Inca tribes.

Both taxonomy and biodiversity are in a current global crisis, but this discovery 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," added Struwe.

The journey to this important discovery had an interesting start. Two years ago, José Carlos Mendes Santos, a handy man called Louro who worked for Popovkin in rural northeastern Bahia, Brazil, hunched down behind a shrub for a common human activity. He spied an unusual tiny, inch-high plant with white-and-pink flowers, and as his custom from long working alongside a botanist, Louro brought it to the attention of Popovkin.

The tiny plant took up residence on the window sill of Popovkin's house for closer observation. Its identification was an arduous task of contacting several taxonomic experts in Brazil, the United States and the United Kingdom, which led to establishing the family and the genus of the plant, but not the species.

Struwe, a specialist of the plant's family, offered to collaborate with Popovkin on studying and publishing the new species. "It was clear that the plant was a member of the strychnine family, Loganiaceae, and its genus Spigelia, but not of a species previously known."

Further collaboration with another expert in the strychnine family, Katherine Mathews from Western Carolina University, and visiting scientist Mari Carmen Molina from Spain, who extracted DNA from the plant in Struwe's laboratory, led to the confirmation of the species as Spigelia, to which pinkroot, an old North American herbal remedy against intestinal parasites also belongs.

"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," offered Struwe.

Carl Blesch | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.rutgers.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Newly designed molecule binds nitrogen
23.02.2018 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Atomic Design by Water
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung GmbH

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

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...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

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...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>