Hotspot reveals new kangaroo paws

Oct 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: Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

Related Stories

New DNA test on roo poo identifies species

Jun 06, 2013

(Phys.org) —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

Aug 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 consor ...

Protecting living fossil trees

Mar 02, 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

Jan 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

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

May 23, 2015

Many animals feed on seeds, acorns or nuts. The common feature of these are that they have shells and there is no direct way to know what's inside. How do the animals know how much and what quality of food ...

Estuaries protect Dungeness crabs from deadly parasites

May 22, 2015

Parasitic worms can pose a serious threat to the Dungeness crab, a commercially important fishery species found along the west coast of North America. The worms are thought to have caused or contributed to ...

An evolutionary heads-up—the brain size advantage

May 22, 2015

A larger brain brings better cognitive performance. And so it seems only logical that a larger brain would offer a higher survival potential. In the course of evolution, large brains should therefore win ...

Our bond with dogs may go back more than 27,000 years

May 21, 2015

Dogs' special relationship to humans may go back 27,000 to 40,000 years, according to genomic analysis of an ancient Taimyr wolf bone reported in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 21. Earlier genome ...

User comments : 0

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.