CDF Galapagos Lichen Survey Leads to Wealth of New Discoveries

05 July 2010 | News story

A Galápagos lichen survey conducted 16 June 2010 by an international scientific team of lichenologists, botanists, professors, graduate students, and naturalists taking part in a lichen workshop convened 14-18 June by the Charles Darwin Foundation (CDF) uncovered a bounty of new findings: more than 60 species newly reported from Galápagos, and an estimated ten species new to science.

The one-day field excursion resulted in 400 samples collected on Santa Cruz Island from diverse habitats in various vegetation zones and on an array of substrates. Identifications for half these new specimens have been completed with the remainder requiring further examination. All specimens were databased, visually inspected, studied under the microscope, examined with ultra-violet and chemical analyses and cross-checked against the CDF Quick Guide to Galápagos Lichens.

The workshop participants hail from the following institutions: Rosa Batallas, National Herbarium of Ecuador; Lenyn Betancourt, CDF; Frank Bungartz, CDF; Desiree Cruz, Galápagos Naturalist Guide; Manuela Dal Forno, George Mason University, US; Valeria Dután, CDF; Anne Guézou, CDF; Patricia Jaramillo, CDF; Harald Jonitz, Galápagos Naturalist Guide; Robert Lücking, Field Museum, US; Danilo Minga, University of Azuay, Ecuador; Ricardo Miranda, National Autonomous University of México; Fredy Nugra, University of Azuay, Ecuador; Catalina Quintana, Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador; Eimy Rivas-Plata, Field Museum, US; Adriano Spielmann, Federal University of Mato Grosso, Brazil; Diego Villagomez, CDF; Alba Yánez-Ayabaca, Central University of Quito, Ecuador; and Frauke Ziemmeck, CDF.

Among the exciting finds are species in the genera Coenogonium, Physcia, Coccocarpia, Cryptothecia, Herpothallon, Heterodermia, Pyrenula, Parmotrema, Aulaxina, Phaeographis, Sticta, Calopadia, Pseudocyphellaria, and many others.

“Describing new species and discovering previously unreported ones is exciting,” says lichenologist Dr. Frank Bungartz, workshop coordinator and CDF Head of Natural History Collections and Theme Leader in Biodiversity Assessment. But he continues that: “It is also an essential part of fully understanding the complex components that make up ecosystems. Without knowing the individual elements of ecology -- the species -- we cannot anticipate how these elements fit together. It is therefore critical to expand our horizons -- to notice the unnoticed.”

This workshop demonstrates how much remains to be discovered in Galápagos. In the past four years since CDF began its Galápagos lichen inventory in November 2005, seven new species have been described with many more still awaiting formal publication. As a result, the list of lichen species known from the archipelago has tripled from 200 to now more than 600 species.

“We identified more than 60 new Galápagos species in just one day, some of them scientifically undescribed. It gives us a rather good idea,” observes Bungartz, “of how little we know and further inspires us to deepen our understanding of Galápagos biodiversity! To do science objectively,” he continues, “to really understand ecosystems and how they function, we can no longer afford to ignore the fungi, lichens, bryophytes and invertebrates that make up the large majority of life on Earth. Biodiversity is more than just the sum of its parts.”

The Lichen Collection of the CDF Herbarium contains 12,000 specimens of now more than 600 Galápagos species. Look for lichens and additional scientific data on the continuously updated CDF Galápagos Species Checklist at www.darwinfoundation.org

For more information:
Alex Ontaneda alex.ontaneda@fcdarwin.org.ec