Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

35,000 new species ‘sitting in cupboards’

Date:
December 10, 2010
Source:
University of Oxford
Summary:
Of the estimated 70,000 species of flowering plants yet to be described by scientists, more than half may already have been collected but are lying unknown and unrecognized in collections around the world, a new study suggests.

Of the estimated 70,000 species of flowering plants yet to be described by scientists, more than half may already have been collected but are lying unknown and unrecognised in collections around the world, a new study suggests.

A lack of resources for collections of plant specimens -- known as 'herbaria' -- and a lack of experts who can identify new species are leaving a vital reservoir of information about global biodiversity untapped, the study's authors believe. Their work shows that it currently takes on average 30-40 years from the time a flowering plant specimen is collected to it being recognised and described as a new species.

A report of the research appears this week in PNAS.

'Many people think that discovering new species is primarily about expeditions to exotic locations and collecting new specimens, but the truth is that thousands of new plant species are lying unidentified in cupboards, drawers and cabinets around the world,' said Dr Robert Scotland of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences, an author of the report.

At the moment our knowledge of flowering plants is greater than our knowledge of almost any other group of organisms of comparable size -- it is estimated that we know about 4 out of 5 species compared to knowing about only 1 in 10 species of insect, for example. Because flowering plants are found in every terrestrial habitat and every area of the globe they are a vital tool for monitoring biodiversity.

'Because people have been collecting plants from around the world since before Victorian times the job of identifying a new plant species is becoming harder every year as collections fill up and it becomes more difficult to spot the new species,' said Dr Scotland. 'A lot of work needs to be done comparing specimens from different parts of the world, and eliminating any duplicates, before we can be sure that a plant is unique and describe it. At the moment there simply aren't enough experts to do this.'

Herbaria consist of collections of dried plant specimens mounted on card and then filed away in cupboards and cabinets. Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences has its own herbaria containing around one million specimens and for the study worked with colleagues from the Natural History Museum (London), Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Missouri Botanical Garden, and the Earthwatch Institute.

'Our own research into one particular genus of flowering plants, Strobilanthes, described 60 new species from specimens which had been sitting unexamined in herbaria for a long time,' said Dr Scotland. 'We now know that this pattern of new species going unrecognised is repeated at the world's greatest plant collections, hindering efforts to monitor global biodiversity and measure the impact of human activity on plants and animals.'


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oxford. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. D. P. Bebber, M. A. Carine, J. R. I. Wood, A. H. Wortley, D. J. Harris, G. T. Prance, G. Davidse, J. Paige, T. D. Pennington, N. K. B. Robson, R. W. Scotland. Herbaria are a major frontier for species discovery. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1011841108

Cite This Page:

University of Oxford. "35,000 new species ‘sitting in cupboards’." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 December 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210111714.htm>.
University of Oxford. (2010, December 10). 35,000 new species ‘sitting in cupboards’. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 3, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210111714.htm
University of Oxford. "35,000 new species ‘sitting in cupboards’." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210111714.htm (accessed September 3, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Snack Attack: Study Says Action Movies Make You Snack More

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) You're more likely to gain weight while watching action flicks than you are watching other types of programming, says a new study published in JAMA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Get A Mortgage, Receive A Cat — Only In Russia

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The incentive is in keeping with a Russian superstition that it's good luck for a cat to be the first to cross the threshold of a new home. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

U.N. Says Ebola Travel Restrictions Will Cause Food Shortage

Newsy (Sep. 2, 2014) The U.N. says the problem is two-fold — quarantine zones and travel restrictions are limiting the movement of both people and food. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

Sharks Off the Menu and on the Tourist Trail in Palau

AFP (Sep. 2, 2014) Tourists in Palau clamour to dive with sharks thanks to a pioneering conservation initiative -- as the island nation plans to completely ban commercial fishing in its vast ocean territory. 01:15 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins