GEOGRAPHY

In the name of its predecessors, new plant species were discovered in the Hengduan Mountains


Recently, the Chengdu Institute of Biology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (hereinafter referred to as the “Chengdu Institute of Biology”) and researchers from Jiangxi Agricultural University published a paper in the ecological journal “Ecosystem Health and Sustainability”, publishing a new species of Rhamnosiaceae plant “Wadius Snake Vine”. This is the third species of snake vine recorded in China, and the researchers have named it “Colubrina zhaoguangii” to commemorate and pay tribute to the late ecologist Liu Zhaoguang, who was engaged in vegetation research in the Hengduan Mountains. At the same time, the researchers also discussed their relationship with a close relative based on the morphological characteristics of flowers and fruits and molecular genetic evidence, and assessed the threat of this species based on the distribution range, number of plants and degree of disturbance of the wadi snake vine.

Wadi snake vine photo: a. Habitat b. plant c. branches d. leaf e. proximal surface scales f. leaf apex gland g. petiole and dorsal short soft hair h. flower i. fruit j. seed Courtesy of the interviewee

In August 2021, Dr. Hu Jun of chengdu Institute of Biology led a team to conduct the second scientific expedition to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in the dry valley of the Jinsha River in Derong County, Ganzi Prefecture, Sichuan Province. During the period, 1 species of Rhamnosiaceae was collected, which could not correspond to the existing Leptophyllaceae plant group, and after consulting Dr. Yang Yi of Jiangxi Agricultural University, and compared with the domestic and foreign species of Rhamnosiaceae, it was confirmed that it was a new species of Rhamnosus serpentines.

The researchers formulated Chinese name for the new species, “Wadi Snake Vine”, to indicate that the species is distributed in the arid valley area of the Jinsha River at the base of the Hengduan Mountains, and the Latin name “Colubrina Zhaoguangii” to commemorate and pay tribute to the late botanist and ecologist Liu Zhaoguang.

“Liu Zhaoguang’s predecessors have long been engaged in the research and investigation of vegetation ecology and botany in Hengduan Mountain, and he was also the main force and leader of the vegetation investigation in western Sichuan during the first Qinghai-Tibet scientific expedition.” Hu Jun introduced that because the new species was found in the Hengduan Mountains, and no plant had ever been named after Liu Zhaoguang before, the researchers made this important decision. “In order to commemorate the great spirit of the older generation of scholars who are not afraid of hardships and dangers, willing to dedicate, and choose a career to live a lifetime, and encourage the new generation of young people to learn from the older generation of scientists to love their jobs and dedicate themselves to their work, have the courage to serve the needs of the country, and dedicate themselves to the basic field investigation work.”

Wadi Snake Vine Pattern Specimen Courtesy of the interviewee

There are about 38 species of snake vines in the world, distributed in southern Asia, Oceania, the Pacific Islands, Africa, the southern United States and Latin America tropical and subtropical coastal areas. There are two species distributed in China, namely Colubrina asiatica and Colubrina pubescens, the former is distributed in the coastal areas of Guangdong, Guangxi and Taiwan, and the latter is distributed in the Lancang River, Honghe River and other river basins in southern Yunnan. The wadium snake vine found in the dry and warm river valley of the Jinsha River basin at the base of the Hengduan Mountains is the third species of snake vine distributed in China.

Compared with snake vines and hairy snake vines, the wadi snake vine is a dwarf shrub state, the tips of the branches are often specialized into thorns, the leaves are small, and the apex is concave and easy to identify. Morphologically, the Wadi snake vine is very similar to the Madagascar-endemic Madagascar snake vine (Colubrina alluaudii) and the green snake vine (Colubrina viridis) in northwestern Mexico, but the leaves of the wadi snake vine have tiny white bubble-like scales, which are significantly different from two closely related species.

In addition, the researchers recommended that the Wadi snake vine be assessed as a vulnerable species based on its distribution range, plant number and degree of disturbance, combined with the assessment criteria of the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Hand drawing of wadi snake vine: a. branches b. leaf (obverse) c. leaf (back) d. leaf apex gland e–f. flower g. fruit h. seed Li Congying painted

The discovery of the wadi snake vine not only enriched the diversity of plant species in China, but also highlighted the importance of the basic survey of biodiversity. The discovery of this new species suggests that the arid valley area at the base of the Hengduan Mountains is important for biodiversity conservation in the Hengduan Mountains. In addition, the discovery and publication of the wadium snake vine has important scientific value for the study of phylogeny of Rhamnobiaceae and biogeography in hengduan mountains.

It is reported that Dr. Hu Jun of Chengdu Institute of Biology is the first author of the paper, Yang Yi, Ph.D. of Jiangxi Agricultural University, and Liu Qing, a researcher of Chengdu Institute of Biology, are the corresponding authors of the paper. (Source: China Science Daily Yang Chen)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1080/20964129.2022.2105750

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