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University of Alicante researchers discover a new carnivorous plant in the region of Valencia

The morphological and phylogenetic work developed by the Research Group in Botany and Plant Conservation reveals that Pinguicula saetabensis is an unknown species

 

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Alicante. Thursday, 17 May 2018

University of Alicante researchers from the Research Group in Botany and Plant Conservation have described a new insectivorous plant species in the region of Valencia. Pinguicula saetabensis is the scientific name of this delicate carnivorous species, whose leaves are all arranged at the base and are covered with glands on which small insects get stuck. These bluish flowers emerged from very long peduncles and have two lips and a long spur. The fruits are small, almost spherical, and release numerous seeds of small size and reticulated surface.

It is a typical plant of shelters, slopes and calcareous cliffs, in which there are cracks through which water oozes and in which calcium carbonate (tuffs) is deposited. "Only a few shady ravines are known in the environs of Enguera and Moixent, in the south-centre of the province of Valencia, where it is a very localised endemic species. In fact, the name Pinguicula saetabensis refers to the ancient Roman Augusta Saetabis, now Játiva, near the area where the plant grows”, as explained by UA lecturers and authors of the finding Manuel Crespo, Mario Martínez-Azorín and Mª Ángeles Alonso.

According to these experts, "This plant was discovered at the beginning of the year 2000 although it had been previously confused with some close allies endemic to the  Baetic and Sub-Baetic Systems of  Spanish regions Andalusia and Castilla-La Mancha". However, the morphological and phylogenetic works developed in recent years from the University of Alicante Research Group in Botany and Plant Conservation, coordinated by professor of Botany Manuel B. Crespo, have reported that this Valencian plant belongs to the hitherto unknown species.

"In this particular case, it shares some morphological features and a habitat similar to some populations that grow in the source of the Mundo River (Albacete), but the Valencian plant is well defined by some exclusive floral and reproductive attributes", UA researchers highlighted. The result has recently been published in Plant Biosystems, a prestigious scientific journal with great impact in the area of botany.

This is an interesting scientific finding as techniques of classical morphological studies have been combined with modern DNA sequencing methods and establishment of evolutionary relationships to describe this new species. Also, - as the authors of this article pointed out - because certain unknowns that had arisen in the last decades about the diversity of the Pinguicula species (small herbaceous rosette-like plants, of few centimetres in diameter, popularly known as 'grasillas’ or 'tirañas') in the Iberian Mediterranean territories have been finally solved.

On the other hand, this research makes it possible to reconsider the treatment of the Valencian populations of Pinguicula saetabensis, "which are now an endangered species and for which urgent conservation measures will have to be taken by the relevant authorities”, experts in botany warned. "It should not be forgotten that these species that grow in extremely vulnerable environments, such as calcareous tuffs, serve as indicators of the environmental quality of ecosystems and, in this case, the discovery of a new species is a significant milestone, not only for the scientific community but also for society at large”, they added.

In short, basic research studies conducted by the UA Research Group in Botany and Plant Conservation, which have led to this new species, result in a better knowledge of biodiversity, as well as in the direct and indirect benefits associated with its conservation.

 

Reference: “Morphological and molecular data support recognition of a new rupicolous species of Pinguicula (Lentibulariaceae) from the Iberian Peninsula”, Plant Biosystems (2018)

 

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