May 21, 2022

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The wildflower, thought to be extinct 40 years ago, was rediscovered in Ecuador |  Instagram HLN

The wildflower, thought to be extinct 40 years ago, was rediscovered in Ecuador | Instagram HLN

Gasteranthus extinctus, a South American wildflower thought to be extinct, has now been rediscovered. The flower was found by biologists in the foothills of the Andes and in remaining patches of forest in Ecuador’s Centinela region, nearly 40 years after it was last seen.

About 97 percent of the forests in the western half of Ecuador have been destroyed, including most of the Sentinella region. As a result, many unique plant species, such as Gaseranthus extinticus, may have been lost. The tiny plant that grows at the bottom of the forest and has glowing neon orange flowers was called “extinticus” because researchers thought the flower was already completely extinct. “Centinela is a legendary place for tropical botanists,” said Nigel CA Pitman, one of the researchers behind the discovery. “But since it was described by the top people in the field, no one has actually revised the science again. No one has come back to confirm that the forest is gone and that stuff is extinct.”

The researchers decided to look for plant species after all. They were the first to search satellite images to identify intact primary rainforests. In this way I rediscovered the flower. “The rediscovery of this flower shows that it is not too late to reverse even the worst-case scenarios for biodiversity, and shows that there is value in preserving even the smallest and most degraded areas,” wrote Dawson White, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum. in Chicago and co-lead author of the research paper published in the journal PhytoKeys.

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Still new varieties

Researchers identified Gasteranthus extinctus within the first few hours of research, using photos of a dried herb specimen, line drawings, and written description for reference. In order not to damage the rare perennials, they carefully took pictures and collected some fallen flowers before receiving confirmation of identity from the taxonomist. Despite being endangered, the Gasteranthus extinctus will retain its name. “New species are still being found, and we can still save many things that are on the brink of extinction.”

The research group is now working with Ecuadorean conservationists to protect some of the remaining parts of the Centinela region, where the flowers live.

Gasteranthus extinctus is a small plant that grows on the forest floor and has glowing neon orange blossoms. Venus became after 40 years. © Riley Fortier