Garden scientists, students, and collaborators describe two new tree species related to breadfruit and jackfruit. While conducting fieldwork in Thailand, Chicago Botanic Garden scientist Nyree Zerega, Ph.D., and collaborators encountered a curious specimen of a tree related to jackfruit and breadfruit. Dr. Zerega is an expert on plants in this group, but nevertheless she was unable to identify the newly encountered specimen—in fact, she suspected it may be a new species. Zerega and Elliot Gardner, a Ph.D. alumnus of the Garden’s graduate program in plant biology and conservation, followed up this observation by examining hundreds of dried plant specimens of related species from Southeast Asia to see if they could find a match. Throughout the process, they stumbled upon yet another unknown specimen from Vietnam. Finally, by using molecular techniques to examine genetic relationships among these species, along with dozens of other breadfruit and jackfruit relatives, they determined that these two curious specimens were in fact two species new to science.
Zerega commented that the “extinction rates of plant species are rising around the world, yet we are still finding large tree species that are new to science! We have so much to learn and to protect around the world, and the clock is ticking.”
This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and published this summer in the peer-reviewed science journal, Phytotaxa: https://www.mapress.com/j/pt/article/view/phytotaxa.453.3.8
Keywords: Nyree Zerega, species discovery, jackfruit, breadfruit, publication, international work