Leo P. Bruederle, associate professor of integrative biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and colleagues recently reported on a plant species new to science at Botany 2012, the annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America and American Society of Plant Taxonomists.
Carex viridistellata, otherwise known as the green star sedge, is a cryptic species that is restricted in distribution to Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, where it is known from fewer than 20 sites.
Although museum collections reveal that this plant has been collected no fewer than 35 times over the course of the past century, it has remained hidden in museum collections until recently. The formation of new species is not always marked by obvious, species-specific characters. As a result, biodiversity can easily be overlooked.
Advances in molecular biology and genetics have altered our perceptions regarding the diversity of life on earth, with cryptic species being described from across the 'tree of life.' This, coupled with the unprecedented rates of species extinctions that are occurring due to human perturbation emphasize the importance of systematics research using modern techniques.
According to Bruederle and his co-authors, "this work highlights the importance of cryptic taxa, with implications for fields ranging from population genetics to conservation and restoration."
The paper, which has been accepted for publication in Systematic Botany, is co-authored by CU Denver alumni Nathan J. Derieg (MS, 2007) and Sara Weil (MS, 2007), as well as Anton A. Reznicek, curator of vascular plants at the University of Michigan.