(ORDO NEWS) — Researchers from Finland and Brazil have described seven new species of large and conspicuous ferns in the forests of South America at once. Unfortunately, some of them can immediately fall into the list of threatened species.
Rainforests and other ecosystems of the Earth’s hot belt have a huge biodiversity. It is so large that sometimes biologists do not have to look for it especially to describe a new species – it is enough just to visit a new place.
Of course, many tropical forests of South America (including the famous Amazon) are being actively cut down, but there are many thickets that people have not had time to not only destroy, but also to properly study.
That is how, without spending much effort on finding rather large and even numerous specimens, researchers from Finland and Brazil discovered seven new species of ferns at once. They grow in Panama, Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
“The described species are not some tiny and inconspicuous organisms. Their size varies from 20 centimeters to two meters, and many plants are also numerous in places, ” said Janina Keskiniva from the University of Turku (Finland), one of the authors.
The newly described ferns belong to two different genera. The first one, Danae (marattiaceae family), was replenished with six species: Danaea alansmithii, D. gracilis, D. lanceolata, D. stricta, D. tenuicaulis and D. vanderwerffii . Ferns differ from each other in size, morphological features such as leaf shape, habitats, and so on.
At the same time, one of the species ( Danae stricta ) has a very small distribution area and is rarely found there. Therefore, a newly discovered plant may need protection.
The seventh new species belongs to another genus – Dennstedtia from the family of the same name Dennstedtiaceae. In Dennstaedtia aculeata , the leaves are more dissected, up to two meters in size and are also protected by thorns.
In addition to the collected material, botanists used herbarium specimens to describe new plants. “Most of the specimens that we considered when isolating new Danae species were collected decades ago, and some were collected at the beginning of the 19th century.
All this time, the samples were kept in various herbaria. Now we were able to combine the information available on them with new finds made by us and colleagues during the expeditions, ”explained Yanina.
One of the authors of the description of the prickly fern Gabriella Zukim (Gabriela Zuquim) recalls that the discovery began with an accident. “I took a photo for a field guide to ferns.
It was already getting dark, so I was going back to the camp when I suddenly saw some unfamiliar fern. I had never seen anything like it before, so I gathered my strength and took samples of it, ”says the scientist.
It is noteworthy that the description of Dennstaedtia aculeata was made in an area with specific soil. In the tropical forests of South America, the soil cover forms a kind of mosaic and therefore determines the variegated biodiversity.
As sometimes happens in biology, the authors of the discovery did not set themselves the goal that they achieved – the description of a number of new species. They were engaged in research of local ecosystems and the evolution of ferns.
And yet it is encouraging that even now biodiversity is not only disappearing due to global environmental problems, but sometimes replenished thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic scientists.
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