Biologists and researchers from the Guadualito Natural Reserve and the Industrial Universities of Santander and CES of Medellín discovered a new species of palm whose origin comes from the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia.
It is the Aiphanes suaita palm species which has been found in two localities near the municipality of Suaita, in the south of the department of Santander. The species is listed as endangered, the second most serious category of threat due to the scarcity of forests in which it can be conserved in an elevation band close to 1,600 m that is widely used for agriculture and livestock.
"The new species differs in its solitary stem, the brown spines, the pinnae strongly folded along the secondary veins, the tip of the pinnae in the form of a" V ", the inflorescence in a spike and with spines", this is how it is described the new finding in the scientific article signed by Colombian researchers María José Sanín Pérez, Rodrigo Bernal and Felipe Castaño.
Dr. María José Sanín Pérez, a professor at the Faculty of Sciences and Biotechnology of the CES University and who was part of the team, explained that the finding was produced through phylogenetic systematics. The methodology of phylogenies consists of establishing the relationship or kinship between the species, as if it were a genealogical tree, but of the species, not of people. For this case, they decided that the Suaita material was not from the Aiphanes simplex species and that it was another species, closer to the Aiphanes leiostachys species.
“Phylogenetic trees can give us information about identification through the relationship between species. For this new species, we obtained samples from a genus of palms called Aiphanes which is mainly Andean. We did a phylogenetic analysis and found that the number of species that we believed existed in Colombia was lower than the real number, that is, that there is diversity to be found that has not been described and that the morphology is not always, that is, what we were able to observe in the field and from the collected plant material, it is enough to reveal the diversity that our ecosystems harbor ”, explained the teacher Sanín Pérez of the CES.
In Colombia, it is estimated that about 260 species of palms are registered, which is why it is considered one of the richest countries in this family of plants. With the finding, Colombian scientists hope to draw attention to make new explorations of biodiversity in the national territory and to make a greater effort for the protection and conservation of forests.