From Plant Press, Vol. 18, No. 4, October 2015.
By Elizabeth Jacobsen, Botany Intern
Its range may be small, and its flowers even smaller, but it couldn’t hide forever: Anetanthus disjuncta (Gesneriaceae) is described for the first time by Laurence Skog and John L. Clark in the journal Phytotaxa. The new find is located at a single location on Mt. Ayanganna in the Pakaraima Mountains of Guyana, at elevations between 800 and 1100 m. This restricted range signals that A. disjuncta should be listed as Critically Endangered according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Anetanthus disjuncta gets its name from its spatial separation from the other two Anetanthus species, which are found farther west—in Brazil and the Andes from Colombia to Bolivia. Anetanthus gracilis, described in 1877, is the most widespread species in the genus, and it contains a subspecies, Anetanthus gracilis subsp. munchiquensis, which was described in 1995. The remaining Anetanthus species, A. rubra, is known only from its type locality in Amazonas, Peru, and was described by Skog in 1982. Skog and Clark are the world’s leading experts on neotropical gesneriads. Skog is an emeritus research botanist at the Smithsonian and Clark has been a Research Associate at the Smithsonian since 2006.
The Smithsonian has a long history of research in the Guiana Shield, most visibly since 1983 when the Biological Diversity of the Guiana Shield Program (BDG) got started in the Guianas. The area known as the Guiana Shield includes parts of Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, Surinam, and French Guiana. The region is biologically rich, but much remains to be uncovered by scientists. Its largely pristine conditions are threatened by logging and mining, and the BDG has been dedicated to studying and preserving this biodiversity hotspot, an especially important task as it continues to reveal new species like Anetanthus disjuncta.