Daily Archives: 24th of October 2012

Botanist goes Gaga for ferns

Botanists are getting competitive when it comes to naming plant species. Duke University has announced that a whole genus of ferns, with 19 known species, has been named after Lady Gaga. This, as the press release notes, beats the mere one carnivorous plant that Helen Mirren has named after her. In her defence though when Helen Mirren wakes up in the morning, she’s Helen Mirren – which is surely a pretty amazing feeling most days.

Seventeen of Lady Gaga’s new species will be re-classified old species from the genus Cheilanthes. The new genus is based on DNA analysis of the ferns that includes a distinctive GAGA sequence. There are also two new species. Gaga monstraparva is named after Lady Gaga’s fans, who she calls ‘little monsters’. Gaga germanotta in contrast is named after Lady Gaga herself as she was born Stefani Germanotta. Graduate Student Fay-Wei Li was delighted to discover this new species while on fieldwork in Costa Rica.

Graduate Student Fay-Wei Li at the moment he discovered Gaga germanotta alive in Costa Rica.

Graduate Student Fay-Wei Li at the moment he discovered Gaga germanotta alive in Costa Rica.

You can pick up the paper describing the ferns, Gaga, a New Fern Genus Segregated from Cheilanthes (Pteridaceae), from Systematic Botany.

Minority cytotypes in fragrant orchids

Minority cytotypes in fragrant orchids

Minority cytotypes in fragrant orchids

Patterns of ploidy variation can provide useful insights into the evolutionary mechanisms that shape the dynamics of plant systems showing ploidy diversity. Trávníček et al. examine cytotype variation in fragrant orchids, Gymnadenia species, at different spatial scales, from transcontinental to intra-populational. They find that most Gymnadenia populations exhibit considerable cytogenetic (and, to a lesser degree, taxonomic) heterogeneity. In contrast to previously investigated plant groups, Gymnadenia is unique in that it is the incidence of rare minority cytotypes that largely drives intra-population ploidy variation. The cytogenetic structure of Gymnadenia populations is remarkably dynamic and shaped by multiple evolutionary mechanisms, including both the ongoing production of unreduced gametes and heteroploid hybridization.