Plants go extinct, but sometimes species are rediscovered. This one after 151 years.

Mycoheterotrophs never fail to fascinate. With their rarity and weird shapes they really are the aliens of the plants world. Some species, like the mythical Thismia  americana,  almost reach a ‘Loch Ness monster’ status: seen a few times, a long time ago, and never again. Yet maybe, somewhere, it is still out there…

In 2013 I wrote:

“Since many mycoheterotrophic species, particularly those occurring in tropical rainforests, grow in inaccessible areas and are extremely difficult to spot, it is impossible to declare any mycoheterotrophic species as extinct with confidence. Even when the type locality is destroyed and a species has not been seen for many decades, it is still possible that other populations escaped discovery. Sometimes species have been rediscovered after a notably long hiatus. Haplothismia exannulata (Thismiaceae) was rediscovered at its type locality in India in 2000, 49 years after its discovery and only a few years after being declared “extinct” (Sasidharan and Sujanapal 2000). The second collection of Thismia clavigera (Thismiaceae) was made 115 years after the first and over 1,000 km from the type locality (Stone 1980)”

And this is exactly what happened with Thismia neptunis. Discovered in Borneo by Italian botanist Odoardo Beccari in 1866, and beautifully illustrated by him:

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 10.46.52

Thismia neptunis (from Beccari 1878)

This marvelous species was recently rediscovered by Czech botanist Michal Sochor and colleagues, in Sarawak, Borneo, probably near or at the same locality as it was seen for the first time, 151 years ago. These rediscoveries are always great news, and fuel hopes that other assumed-extinct species are still waiting to be found again.

Screen Shot 2018-02-27 at 10.20.43

Thismia neptunis (from Sochor et al. 2018)

The paper Sochor et al. Phytotaxa (2018) can be found here.

EDIT: The original collection year was wrongly stated as 1876. Thanks  for spotting this. 

One thought on “Plants go extinct, but sometimes species are rediscovered. This one after 151 years.

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