Tuesday, January 11, 2011

missing plant species waiting in drawers

[related blog entry in German: Wissenslogs]

Where should researchers look for new plant species? According to an Oxford-led study, herbaria (collections of dried plant samples) are the final frontier of species discovery, as half of the flowering plant species yet to be discovered are likely to sit in a drawer already.

The researchers investigated how much time passes between the collection of a plant sample in the wild and its description as a new species. Around half the new species analysed had been waiting in collections for 25 years or longer, they report in PNAS. Extrapolating this trend into the future on the basis of a current discovery rate of 2000 species per year and an estimate of 70,000 missing species, the scientists arrive at the surprising conclusion that half of those 70,000 have already been collected.

Read more about this in my feature in today's issue of Current Biology:

Herbaria source of new plant species
Current Biology, Volume 21, Issue 1, R6-R7, 11 January 2011
doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.12.029
abstract and restricted access to PDF file

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