Hotspot reveals new kangaroo paws

October 23, 2013 by Lisa Morrison
Hotspot reveals new kangaroo paws
A new species of the Anigozanthos genus kangaroo paw from the southern forest in Albany. Credit: S Hopper

Two new species of kangaroo paw have been discovered in WA's biodiversity hotspot – the south-west of Australia – thanks to DNA sequencing.

UWA's Winthrop Professor of Biodiversity Stephen Hopper performed DNA sequencing on two kangaroo paws at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England, in collaboration with postdoctoral fellow Doctor Rhian Smith.

Prof Hopper says the were thought to be common bicolor kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos bicolor) but molecular sequencing revealed they differ genetically.

"The DNA has helped us unravel this evolutionary history of the kangaroo paws and very clearly shown there are two new of kangaroo paw that have evolved at least twice independently," Prof Hopper says.

"They have been right under our noses but until we could look into DNA sequencing it was not clear that these two plants are quite different genetically to the bicoloured kangaroo paw.

"You can apply the technique of studying DNA to any living organism including plants … it is a very powerful, repeatable scientific approach to determining relationships."

DNA is taken from living leaf tissue sampled in the wild and a herbarium specimen to confirm identification and construct a 'tree' of species evolution.

"DNA is extracted in the Jodrell laboratory and the base pairs along selected parts of the molecule are sequenced by standard molecular techniques," he says.

"The gene regions selected are those that have become standard globally and found to vary among species across many groups of plants so that novel sequences can be compared with global records to confirm each sequence is producing accurate reproducible results.

"Standard statistical programs are then used to construct a phylogenetic tree from the sequence data, clearly illustrating relationships among species and so the statistical confidence can be placed on each branch in the 'evolutionary' tree for the organisms studied."

He says the discovery demonstrates WA's south-west is a biodiversity hotspot of global significance.

"The south-west from Shark Bay to Israelite Bay is the second richest biodiversity hotspot on the planet with a temperate climate."

"It is estimated something like 14 per cent of the plants in the south-west are still yet to be named scientifically.

"That percentage is equivalent to many rainforest areas so the south-west is right up there globally if you want to discover a new species and is an area gaining international attention."

The new species are yet to be named.

Explore further: New DNA test on roo poo identifies species

Related Stories

New DNA test on roo poo identifies species

June 6, 2013

( —University of Adelaide researchers have developed a simple and cost-effective DNA test to identify kangaroo species from their droppings which will boost the ability to manage and conserve kangaroo populations.

The first kangaroo genome sequence

August 19, 2011

Kangaroos form an important niche in the tree of life, but until now their DNA had never been sequenced. In an article newly published in BioMed Central's open access journal Genome Biology, an international consortium of ...

Protecting living fossil trees

March 2, 2012

Scientists are working to protect living fossil trees in Fiji from the impact of climate change with cutting-edge DNA sequencing technology.

Sequencing hundreds of chloroplast genomes now possible

January 31, 2013

Researchers at the University of Florida and Oberlin College have developed a sequencing method that will allow potentially hundreds of plant chloroplast genomes to be sequenced at once, facilitating studies of molecular ...

Recommended for you

New analysis of big data sheds light on cell functions

October 26, 2016

Researchers have developed a new way of obtaining useful information from big data in biology to better understand—and predict—what goes on inside a cell. Using genome-scale models, researchers were able to integrate ...

Researchers identify genes for 'Help me!' aromas from corn

October 25, 2016

When corn seedlings are nibbled by caterpillars, they defend themselves by releasing scent compounds that attract parasitic wasps whose larvae consume the caterpillar—but not all corn varieties are equally effective at ...

Structure of key DNA replication protein solved

October 25, 2016

A research team led by scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai (ISMMS) has solved the three-dimensional structure of a key protein that helps damaged cellular DNA repair itself. Investigators say that knowing ...

Genome editing: Efficient CRISPR experiments in mouse cells

October 25, 2016

In order to use the CRISPR-Cas9 system to cut genes, researchers must design an RNA sequence that matches the DNA of the target gene. Most genes have hundreds of such sequences, with varying activity and uniqueness in the ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.