Mysterious Amazon Plant Earns Ranking Almost 50 Years After Discovery

Botanists have announced that they have finally classified an Amazonian plant found in Peru nearly 50 years ago. The plant remained all this time at the Field Museum in Chicago, USA, and was named Enigma Alvareziae named after the place where it was discovered in 1973.

Scientists say that they only received an investment to study the plant a decade after its discovery. When it happened, the species underwent DNA testing, but unfortunately the state of the plant did not help in preserving the genetic material, which was not intact. Then, the team of scientists got in touch with researcher Patricia Álvarez-Loayza in 2015 from Manu National Park.

The scientist searched for another specimen of the plant in the park and sent the researchers to continue the process. Through DNA analysis, botanists discovered that the plant is part of the Picramniaceae family, even though it has no resemblance to the relatives. The sample was then sent to Wyat Thomas, a species specialist in New York.

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Image: Reproduction/Patricia Álvarez-Loayza

Thomas says the first instinct was to believe that there was an error in the molecule analysis or that he had received the wrong sample. The specialist also says that several characteristics do not make sense with the plants to which it is related, such as the details of the leaves, for example, which, instead of being composed, were simple. In addition, the base of each leaf has two stipulas, which other plants in the Picramniaceae family do not usually have. After analyzing the plant’s flowers more closely, he noticed that they were similar to another genus identified within the family. Picramniaceae formerly.

Thomas says the discovery underscores the importance of species conservation as global biodiversity is increasingly threatened. “Part of our job as human beings on the planet is to understand everything that’s going on on the planet. If we say that rainforests are diverse, how do we know that? It’s because people like us botanists at the Field Museum and the New York Botanical Garden we are cataloging this diversity”, completes the scientist.

The study is available at Wiley Online Library.

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