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, Jos 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 speci
|Contact: Carl Blesch|