Field of Science

More Sphagnum research

Directly after the article that I posted about earlier this week was another on Sphagnum by Dr. Eric Karlin and colleagues.

Eric F. Karlin, Sandra B. Boles, Rodney D. Seppelt, Stefano Terracciano, and A. Jonathan Shaw. 2011. The Peat Moss Sphagnum cuspidatum in Australia: Microsatellites Provide a Global Perspective. Systematic Botany 36(1):22-32.

I have yet to read the paper, but here is my non-technical summary of the abstract.

Want to now more about the controversy surrounding the species Sphagnum cuspidatum? Back in the day it was thought to grow on all continents except Antarctica. More recently scientists have proposed that it is limited to Europe and eastern North America. Herein the authors ask the question who is right? Does this species really grow all over the world or does it have a more restricted range? (Cue the dramatic music.) Plants from all over the world were gathered, DNA was removed from their cells and used in some cool science work with microsatelites. The researchers found that Sphagnum cuspidatum grows worldwide in places including Australia, the Philippines, Columbia, and Equatorial Guinea in addition to Europe and eastern North America. And the mystery has been illuminated! Though in science there is always room for more data, and thus reinterpretation of previous results. So this might not be the last word.

And the etymology helps the name stick to your brain

A brief bit about one of the journal articles from Systematic Botany that I read this week.

Câmara, Paulo E. A. S. 2011. A Re-Circumscription of the Moss Genus Taxithelium (Pylaisiadelphaceae) with a Taxonomic Revision of Subgenus Vernieri.  Systematic Botany 36: 7-21.

It is a taxonomic revision. Meaning that the author looked at all the species within a particular group, by requesting samples from across the world. Then examined them morphologically to determine what the species have in common and how the species are each different. There is typically a key to the species (think a choose your own adventure book that ends at an identification for the plant), illustrations and detailed descriptions. Here, 11 species in the Subgenus Vernieri are examined. The author undertook a large amount of work by examining 6,200 specimens. This type of work can only be described as tedious and time consuming. But I think that this work is essential to establishing good morphologically based species. I am looking forward to seeing the results of his molecular analyses to see if the species hold up. The paper said that they are unpublished, so keep an eye out for the phylogeny in a journal near you.

The fun fact that will help you remember this name of this genus (Taxithelium) is the defining feature of its members. They have multiple papillae on each cell that are arranged in a row. Papillae are little bumps on the outside of the cell that are raised portions of the cell wall. The etymology of the genus name is taxi- taso = arranged and thelion = nipple. Yes you heard it here arranged - nipple. Not a genus name to be easily forgotten. (I wonder if this will result in a whole different set of search hits for the blog? Surprise a page about mosses instead.)

This is another article that I read by this author last year that I really enjoyed.

Câmara, Paulo E. A. S. and Elizabeth A. Kellogg. 2010. Morphology and development of leaf papillae in Sematophyllaceae The Bryologist 113: 22-33.