And the winner is…

Image: Alastair Roberts, Wikimedia Commons.

Image: Alastair Roberts, Wikimedia Commons.

… well, it’s not a plant! And how pre­dict­able! The Top 10 new spe­cies of 2010 includes no plants. However, before all read­ers of this column jointly and sev­er­ally get incensed, we must ask the obvi­ous ques­tion: were any new plants dis­covered in 2010? Let me see: oh yes, there were! In fact, ‘On aver­age, 2,000 new plant spe­cies are dis­covered each year’ and a small selec­tion can be seen on the RBG Kew site at http://​www​.kew​.org/​n​e​w​s​/​s​c​i​e​n​c​e​-​c​o​n​s​e​r​v​a​t​i​o​n​-​n​e​w​s​/​d​i​s​c​o​v​e​r​y​/​d​i​s​c​o​v​e​r​e​d​-​2​0​1​0​/​i​n​d​e​x​.​htm. So, why were there no plants – and here I mean proper plants, mem­bers of the Kingdom Plantae – in the top 10? Are plants not pho­to­genic? Are they not use­ful? Were would we be without them? Why are they so unap­pre­ci­ated? Is it that they don’t move? (See first art­icle in this month’s col­lec­tion if still in doubt!) In the so-called top 10 were a large mon­itor liz­ard, a jump­ing cock­roach, Titanic-eating bac­terium, a duiker (type of ante­lope), Darwin’s Bark Spider, a T. rex leech, a pan­cake bat­fish, a mush­room that fruits under­wa­ter, and a bio­lu­min­es­cent fungus. I sup­pose the fungi have the vir­tue of being ‘not anim­als’. The liz­ard is fru­gi­vor­ous so at least has a plant asso­ci­ation, as does the no-doubt herb­i­vor­ous duiker. The only organ­ism with any­thing like half-decent plant cre­den­tials is the pol­lin­at­ing cricket (http://​spe​cies​.asu​.edu/​2​0​1​1​_​s​p​e​c​i​e​s05; whose pol­lin­at­ing activ­ity was announced to the world in an art­icle in this very journal: Annals of Botany 105: 355–364, 2010), but which was dis­missively described as a ‘pol­lin­at­ing cock­roach’ in the news item at–05-scientists-species.html! That not­with­stand­ing, this top 10 is pure phyto­pho­bia and will not – indeed, must not – be tol­er­ated. So, I urge you all to get vot­ing now for the 2012 list of the top 10 new spe­cies from 2011 at http://​spe​cies​.asu​.edu/​s​p​e​c​i​e​s​-​n​o​m​i​n​a​t​ion, and let’s try to get a plant into the top 10! Maybe next year might be bet­ter any­way because the IISE (the University of Arizona’s International Institute for Species Exploration), the organ­isa­tion that runs the top 10, has recently been partnered by AIPC (the Italian Carnivorous Plants Association). Why might this help? Well, a new pitcher plant Nepenthes atten­bor­oughii (pic­tured above) was one of the pre­vi­ous year’s top 10 new spe­cies (http://​spe​cies​.asu​.edu/​2​0​1​0​_​s​p​e​c​i​e​s01). And at least car­ni­vor­ous plants do some­thing… Finally, for those who’d like to see the ‘pol­lin­at­ing cock­roach’ in action, the IISE help­fully provide a ‘click here’ link (http://​news​.bbc​.co​.uk/​1​/​h​i​/​8​3​9​1​5​4​0​.​stm) ‘to see video of the cricket pol­lin­at­ing the orchid provided by the BBC’ [one ima­gines it will also pol­lin­ate orch­ids provided by other news agencies(!)].

Nigel Chaffey. ORCID 0000-0002-4231-9082

Nigel is a botanist and full-time academic at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany he contributes the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ. His main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way...) about plants and plant-people interactions.

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