Bromeliads

Yesterday I blogged about taxonomy but I did not mention the reasons for it.  One of the benefits of a standardized naming system is that people all over the world can refer to the same organism regardless of the language they speak.  All scientific names are Latinized.  Latin is the language of choice because it is a dead language.  No one speaks it anymore, so it will never change or progress into different meanings.  

Bromeliads massed in a garden bed

 

The binomial system also gives relationship information to scientists about how organisms have evolved.  For example, plants in a Family have diverged back in time from all other families.  Those plants in the family have further divided and evolved different genuses.  All plants in a genus evolve into a particular species which does not usually crossbreed with other species in that Genus.  Species may go on to further specialize due to the forces of geography, time of blooming, or other factors.  The species becomes more and more fit to its environment.  

In the past, botanists used flower anatomy to classify plants into Genus, species, etc.  Now they have another tool.  In the hands of a skilled botanist, even the chromosomes can be counted and studied to shed new light on evolutionary paths.  Some recent studies have revealed surprises that have changed the classification of certain plants. 

Bromeliad

 

The Bromeliad family of plants has had a shake up recently.  It is composed of several subfamilies which we will not go into here.  One of the subfamilies is called Bromelioideae.  Some botanists were looking at the chromosome number of members of the subfamily, Genus Cryptanthus.  Most all other Bromeliads have been found to have 50 chromosomes.  Most of Cryptanthus sp.  have 50 also.  However, a few were found to have either 34 or 36 chromosomes.  This was quite a shock since chromosome number is a very stable and unchanging attribute in most organisms.  A reduction of chromosomes is called aneuploidy and usually causes death or distortion of the organism.  In this genus of Bromeliads, the chromosome number has changed and the plants pass this down to their offspring.  It is a sign that those reduced chromosome plants are evolving into a different group.  How should the botanists react in the name they call these new plants?  Should those species having reduced chromosome number be given a new Genus?  If we are using the naming system the way it is intended, they should probably be named separately.  Bromeliad flower stalks

Bromeliad flower stalks

Article about aneuploidy in Bromeliads:  http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1043/0363-6445-26.4.722?journalCode=sbot

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Taxonomy

Taxonomy

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phyllum Insecta
      • Class Insecta
        • Order Hymenoptera
          • Family Formicidae
            • Genus Monomorium
              • Species Monomorium minimum
                • Variety or Cultivar

 

Listed above is the taxonomic breakdown of the common ant.  You will notice that all the levels of hierarchy are single words except for the species.  We usually refer to an organism by the last two, the genus and the species.  In this case the genus is Monomorium and the species is Monomorium minimum.  Notice that the species name consists of two words.  The first is the genus the second word is called the specific epithet.  The genus is always capitalized and the specific epithet is always lower case unless you are in the Everglades National park where all the specific epithets are capitalized.  This temporarily caused Infamous to think that taxonomy had changed the rules on her, but it turns out the National Park service just messed up a little bit.  But I digress, the two word description of organisms was developed by some other people and brought to world wide attention by the Swedish botanist, Carl Linneaus.  It is called binomial nomenclature.  After he reorganized the plants in the Netherlands into modern day families, genuses and species, the systematic naming of organisms took off worldwide.  He changed taxonomy forever by grouping species into ever more general groupings as you go up the taxonomic ladder.