Biosystematics students submit research projects

14 December 2016

Three plant systematics postgraduate students, Mr Rangani Nemando (BSc Hons.), Ms Jaimie Poovan (BSc Hons.) and Ms Robyn Powell (PhD), submitted the results of their research projects for examination and evaluation this month.

Mr Nemando’s research project forms part of his BSc Honours degree co-supervised by Dr J.S. Boatwright (UWC) and Dr A.R. Magee (SANBI). Biosystematics6For his research project Mr Nemando studied the southern African species of the cosmopolitan genus Tribulus L. (Zygophyllaceae) to produce a comprehensive taxonomic treatment of the genus in southern Africa, including a key to aid identification of the species, distribution maps, and illustrations of key characters. In addition he generated DNA sequence data for all of the investigated species from three DNA markers (nuclear ITS and chloroplast trnL-F and rbcL).

Ms Poovan’s research project explored the phylogenetic relationships of the horticulturally important African daisy genus Felicia and its allies, as part of her BSc Honours degree co-supervised by Dr J.S. Boatwright (UWC), Prof. J.C. Manning (SANBI) and Dr A.R. Magee (SANBI). Biosystematics5Ms Poovan has expanded the current generic level sampling of the tribe Astereae to include more than 100 new accessions and 200 new sequences of the Amellus-clade. Her molecular datasets of the Amellus-clade recover well-supported and resolved phylogenetic trees which confirm that the allied genera (Amellus L., Chrysocoma L., Nolletia Cass., Poecilolepis Grau, Polyarrhena Cass., and Zyrphelis) are embedded within a non-monophyletic Felicia. These results are the first step towards refining the generic circumscriptions of the clade.

Ms Powell’s PhD thesis explored the taxonomy, phylogenetic relationships, generic circumscriptions and population dynamics within the Conophytum-clade (Aizoaceae). The Aizoaceae is the largest succulent plant family in the world and has been identified as the top priority for taxonomic research in South Africa.Biosystematics 2 In her thesis Ms Powell evaluated different taxonomic levels within the clade (generic, species and populations) using a multi-disciplinary approach (anatomy, palynology, morphology, DNA sequence data, population genetics). Several novel relationships, revised generic and species circumscriptions, as well as possible drivers of diversity in the horticulturally important and hyper-diverse genus Conophytum are presented. From this research Ms Powell has already published one scientific paper, with another two submitted to international journals. In addition another three scientific papers from this work are currently in preparation. Ms Powell is supervised by Dr J.S. Boatwright (UWC), Dr C. Klak (UCT) and Dr A.R. Magee (SANBI).

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