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Minute traits and DNA link grass species from Old and New Worlds

Date:
October 7, 2013
Source:
Pensoft Publishers
Summary:
It's not always the big and flashy traits that solve taxonomic puzzles. On the basis of minute and easily overlooked morphological characteristics and DNA analysis researchers link four grass species in a genus called Disakisperma for the first time.
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This image shows Disakisperma eleusine, one of the species studied.
Credit: Schweickert 1896; CC-BY 3.0

The kinds of traits that show genealogical relationships between species are often minute and easily overlooked.

Dr. Neil Snow, a botanist at Pittsburg State University, published a paper in 1996 that included observations of some odd-shaped hairs on three species of grass native to Africa. Their odd shape stems from distinctly swollen tips that are then pinched into a small party-hat structure at the very apex.

"A tongue-twisting technical term for that shape is 'clavicorniculate', but 'club-shaped' is a workable simplification we often prefer," remarked Snow.

In 2011, Drs. Paul Peterson and Konstatin Romaschencko, working at the Smithsonian Institution, used DNA sequences to determine that the 3 African species are related to an American species that lacks the odd-shaped hairs.

"Nobody previously anticipated a close relationship between the African and American species, particularly since the American species lacks the odd hairs." "However," added Snow, "the DNA data supporting this relationship is quite robust."

The 3 authors just published a monograph in PhytoKeys, which places the four species together for the first time in a genus called Disakisperma.

"Our research is a good example of how big, bright, flashy or sexy traits are not always the ones that help solve taxonomic puzzles," concluded Snow.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Pensoft Publishers. The original story is licensed under a Creative Commons License. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Neil Snow, Paul M. Peterson, Konstantin Romaschenko. Systematics of Disakisperma (Poaceae, Chloridoideae, Chlorideae). PhytoKeys, 2013; 26: 21 DOI: 10.3897/phytokeys.26.5649

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Pensoft Publishers. "Minute traits and DNA link grass species from Old and New Worlds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131007104656.htm>.
Pensoft Publishers. (2013, October 7). Minute traits and DNA link grass species from Old and New Worlds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 27, 2017 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131007104656.htm
Pensoft Publishers. "Minute traits and DNA link grass species from Old and New Worlds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131007104656.htm (accessed February 27, 2017).