Navigation Links
Europe's rarest orchid rediscovered on 'lost world' volcano in the Azores

Researchers studying speciation of butterfly orchids on the Azores have been startled to discover that the answer to a long-debated question "Do the islands support one species or two species?" is actually "three species". Hochstetter's Butterfly-orchid, newly recognized following application of a battery of scientific techniques and reveling in a complex taxonomic history worthy of Sherlock Holmes, is arguably Europe's rarest orchid species. Under threat in its mountain-top retreat, the orchid urgently requires conservation recognition.

A lavishly illustrated publication, titled "Systematic revision of Platanthera in the Azorean archipelago: not one but three species, including arguably Europe's rarest orchid", was published today in the peer-reviewed open-access journal PeerJ.

The research team, led by independent botanist Prof. Richard Bateman in collaboration with local botanist Dr. Mnica Moura (University of the Azores) and plant morphologist Dr. Paula Rudall (of the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew), originally viewed these butterfly-orchids as a simple, tractable system ideal for studying the origin of species and so they initiated a focused exploration of all nine Azorean islands.

A combination of field and laboratory research soon showed that butterfly-orchids first colonized the Azores from the Mediterranean rather than from North America, rapidly undergoing miniaturization of their ancestrally large flowers. It proved easy to distinguish the widespread Short-spurred Butterfly-orchid (Platanthera pollostantha) from the rarer Narrow-lipped Butterfly-orchid (P. micrantha) using morphology, DNA sequences, and the identities of mycorrhizal fungi associated with the roots of the orchids. However, this 'simple' study was thrown into disarray when Dr. Moura explored remote dwarfed laurisilva forests along the highest volcanic ridge on the central island of So Jorge and found an unusual population of butterfly orchids.

"I immediately recognised the flowers as being exceptionally large for an Azorean butterfly-orchid," said Moura" and e-mailed images to Richard Bateman for confirmation that they were new to science". Data gathered subsequently in the laboratory using several analytical techniques all pointed to the discovery of a new species, and suggested that the species named Platanthera azorica in the PeerJ paper originated relatively recently by a remarkable restoration of the large-flowered morphology of its presumed mainland ancestor.

Bateman then realised that this "new" orchid had in fact been illustrated (but never correctly identified as a new species) in the first ever Flora of the islands, published in 1844, but thereafter had consistently been confused with other more frequent Azorean species. The illustrated specimen, deposited in the herbarium at Tbingen by German botanist Karl Hochstetter, was collected during his tour of six of the nine Azorean islands in 1838. However, as Hochstetter did not visit So Jorge (where P. azorica was most recently 're-discovered') it is entirely possible that the population he originally described may remain to be discovered on another Azorean island.

In the meantime, the team are anxious to obtain conservation protection for the newly-recognized and exceptionally rare orchid. "This remarkable species languished unrecognized for 173 years," commented Bateman. "It's rediscovery and recognition beautifully illustrate the value of integrating field-based and laboratory-based approaches to generate a modern monograph. This methodology both demonstrates that the species is genuine and allows us to make informed recommendations for its future conservation."


Contact: Richard Bateman

Related biology news :

1. Worlds rarest whale seen for the first time
2. Camera trap video offers rare glimpse of worlds rarest gorilla
3. Taking Americas rarest snake back to the woods
4. 2 new species of orchid found in Cuba
5. Native orchid protection and conservation subject of new AgriLife Research study
6. Old skull bone rediscovered
7. Largest lake in Britain and Ireland has lost three-quarters of winter water birds
8. Toxic waste sites cause healthy years of life lost
9. The neuroscience of finding your lost keys
10. Lost frog DNA revived: Lazarus Project
11. Aldo Leopolds field notes score a lost soundscape
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Europe's rarest orchid rediscovered on 'lost world' volcano in the Azores
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015  Rubicon Genomics, Inc., ... U.S. distribution of its DNA library preparation products, ... Rubicon,s new ThruPLEX Plasma-seq kit. ThruPLEX Plasma-seq has ... preparation of NGS libraries for liquid biopsies--the analysis ... and prognostic applications in cancer and other conditions. ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... Oct. 27, 2015 In the present market ... concern for various industry verticals such as banking, healthcare, ... the growing demand for secure & simplified access control ... such as hacking of bank accounts, misuse of users, ... such as PC,s, laptops, and smartphones are expected to ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... Calif. and LAS VEGAS ... Nok Nok Labs , an innovator in modern authentication ... , today announced the launch of its latest version ... unified platform enabling organizations to use standards-based authentication that ... Nok Nok S3 Authentication Suite is ideal for organizations ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 Studies reveal the differences ... and pave the way for more effective treatment for one ...   --> --> ... problems in cats, yet relatively little was understood about the ... have been conducted by researchers from the WALTHAM Centre for ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... 2015 /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS; TSX: ... prospects remain fundamentally strong and highlights the following ... received DSMB recommendation to continue the ZoptEC Phase ... the final interim efficacy and safety data ... men with heavily pretreated castration- and Taxane-resistant prostate ...
(Date:11/25/2015)... Oregon , November 25, 2015 ... Market Research Report is a professional and in-depth ... industry.      (Logo: ) ... overview of the industry including definitions, classifications, applications ... is provided for the international markets including development ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... HILLS, N.J. (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... as the recipient of the 2016 USGA Green Section Award. Presented annually since 1961, ... golf through his or her work with turfgrass. , Clarke, of Iselin, ...
Breaking Biology Technology: