Author: Bernard Goffinet

Collection course successful again!

EEB 5500 (Introduction to Natural History Collections) was offered again this spring, and still drawing students from across campus. Students become acquainted with policies, ethics, and management, and leave with a new appreciation for the role of collection in preserving our natural heritage, and their value in furthering scientific endeavors.  The course is led by Drs. Jane O’Donnell and Sarah Taylor with participation of Dr. Geert Goemans and Susan Hochgraf. Well done!

Anticipating the blooming of the corpse flower!

Our Biodiversity Education & Research Greenhouses host a few plants of Amorphophallus titanum, better known as the corpse flower. Some of us remember the long lines of visitors coming to see the largest inflorescence in the world and experience its unusual smell. Our plants are doing well, but it may take a bit more patience until we can see the majestic flower. See article in Daily Campus.

Living plant collection in the news

EEB’s Biodiversity Research and Education Greenhouse is mentioned in an article of the latest issue of Public Garden published by the American Public Garden Association. The article entitled “What’s our backup plan? A look at living collections security” highlights our greenhouse holding the only known representatives of Solanum ensifolium, a endemic species of Puerto Rico, now considered extremely endangered and potentially extinct in the wild. Clinton Morse and colleagues in EEB are now seeking to propagate the samples to create additional backup collections and repatriate the material back to Puerto Rico.

Water shrews of Connecticut

Jamie Fischer (White Memorial Conservation Center Research Director) visited our vertebrate collections and examined a drawer of water shrew specimens.  Water shrews are unusual members of their group: they spend much of their lives in water, have waterproof fur coats, have a heavy fur fringe on their feet that helps them paddle and even ‘walk on water’ for more than a meter.  Jamie is writing a petition to have them added to a list of designated species for conservation in the state.

Curation of South African plants

Pelargonium barklyi is one of many species endemic to South Africa. Life plants are grown in the BRC greenhouse.

The Biodiversity Research Collection endowment funded major progress in the curation of South African Pelagornium. Dr. Kerri Mocko checked labels for accuracy and digitally imaged ~730 herbarium sheets. Currently comprising ~160 species of the approximately 200 species native to Southern Africa, the CONN collection was assembled in support of the research programs of Dr. Cynthia Jones and Dr. Carl Schlichting. Dr. Mocko, who was present when many of the specimens were collected, verified the accuracy of GPS coordinates and other data entered on each label, a process that was essential prior to adding the collection to the Virtual Herbarium.  While not the largest collection of Pelargonium specimens in the United States, it is the most recent of any of the more extensive collections.

New publication on lichens

Further results from ongoing studies on the diversity of the lichen forming fungal genus Peltigera is being published. Vouchers will be deposited in CONN. Magain N., C. Truong, T. Goward, D. Niu, B. Goffinet, E. Sérusiaux, O. Vitikainen, F. Lutzoni & J. Miadlikowska. 2018. Global species delimitation of Peltigera section Peltigera (lichenized Ascomycota, Lecanoromycetes) reveals high species richness with complex biogeographical history and symbiotic patterns of associations. Taxon 67: 836–870. pdf

Abstract reads: This comprehensive phylogenetic revision of sections Peltigera and Retifoveatae of the cyanolichen genus Peltigera is based on DNA sequences from more than 500 specimens from five continents. We amplified five loci (nrITS, β-tubulin and three intergenic spacers part of colinear orthologous regions [COR]) for the mycobiont, and the rbcLX locus for the cyanobacterial partner Nostoc. Phylogenetic inferences (RAxML, BEAST) and species delimitation methods (bGMYC, bPTP, bPP) suggest the presence of 88 species in section Peltigera, including 50 species new to science, hence uncovering a surprisingly high proportion of previously unnoticed biodiversity. The hypervariable region in ITS1 (ITS1-HR) is a powerful marker to identify species within sections Peltigera and Retifoveatae. Most newly delimited species are restricted to a single biogeographic region, however, up to ten species have a nearly cosmopolitan distribution. The specificity of mycobionts in their association with Nostoc cyanobionts ranges from strict specialists (associate with only one Nostoc phylogroup) to broad generalists (up to eight Nostoc phylogroups uncovered), with widespread species recruiting a broader selection of Nostoc phylogroups than species with limited distributions. In contrast, species from the P. didactyla clade characterized by small thalli and asexual vegetative propagules (soredia) associate with fewer Nostoc phylogroups (i.e., are more specialized) despite their broad distributions, and show significantly higher rates of nucleotide substitutions.