Thursday, July 6, 2017

Andean Orchids - Not So Ancient #Science #Botany #Evolution

Restrepia contorta, an orchid endemic to Northern Andes region and a member of Pleurothallidinae, one of the most characteristic orchid groups of the Andean mountain flora. 

Credit: Pérez, O.

You will probably have to really dig orchids for this article but the Rockhouse does and it goes way back.

The Andes are the world's most species rich biological diversity hotspot, containing an astounding 15% of the world's plant species, despite making up only 1% of the earth's surface. Orchids are a key element of Andean plant life, but despite their importance and abundance, particularly epiphytic orchids (plants that grow on other plants) their origin has not yet been studied in great detail. "Orchids are not only popular in horticulture but also great models to understand evolution" says Professor Alexandre Antonelli at the Gothenburg Global Biodiversity Centre, senior author of the study.  Andean orchids – not so ancient

A substantial surprise to me when I first started getting interested in orchids was the remarkable number of them.  Initially there's the thinking of corsage orchids and they must be so rare or some such but it's not true.  There are tens of thousands of species of orchids in the world and they're all over the place and particularly in the Andes, it seems.

In this fascinating new research, led by Oscar Alejandro Pérez-Escobar of Kew and Guillaume Chomicki (University of Munich), scientists found that a remarkable 7,000 species of orchids from the American tropics – about 20% of all species worldwide living today – formed in relatively recent history: only 15 to 20 million years ago. Although this sounds like a very long time ago, these orchid species are very young indeed in comparison to the time when orchids first appeared on earth (about 110 million years ago).

This research also unveiled that the rise of the Andean mountains created new habitats and niches, clearing the way for this mass orchid evolution.

- PO

Since the Andes already existed, the researchers wondered how the orchids managed to find their way up there.

"The role of the Andean mountains as a geographical barrier for the migration of plant species in America has remained largely understudied", says Chomicki. He also explained that orchids may have conquered the mountains because of their extremely tiny, light-weight seeds that can spend a long time suspended in the air. Though migration of new orchid species across the Andes has been very successful, other factors such as orchids needing specific pollinators and fungi to survive have dictated where they have been able to spread to.

- PO

Some of you really are fascinated by the science of this and there's more in the source article but the Rockhouse will take this segment for a personal sojourn.

Of the enormous number of photographs I shot of orchids, this is one of my favorites.  Many were shot during a period of convalescence and they came to represent an Ideal as the symbol and actuality of the Perfectly Beautiful Entity.

However, there was the tiniest imperfection on one of the petals and, to my eternal photographic disgrace, I Photoshopped it out with a clone tool.  I really have regretted it ever since because in that minuscule way I had besmirched the Ideal.

I doubt that failing will cost me much time in Purgatory or whatever but I do regret that ... while also I don't since I've kept the pic since some time in the early 90s.

The fascination with orchids with me goes way back and I hope the original article is of some interest for you.


Anonymous said...

You might enjoy the program on PBS called "Plants Behaving Badly". It's a series, four programs I think. ML

Anonymous said...

Also, I was looking for a pic of the critter I spotted in the backyard and stumbled upon this site...

Peas InOurThyme said...

The TV I don't see much but I did see the web site and it does look interesting. My own orchid site is still out there but I haven't done anything with it in ages.