Wednesday 22 December 2021

Ophioglossum trilokinathii: A new species of Adder's Tongue Fern from Rajasthan State, India.

Adder's Tongue Ferns, Ophioglossum trilokinathii, are a group of highly unusual Ferns ,which have a global distribution, but are most diverse in India where 20 of the 52 known species are found. Adder's Tongue Ferns have a number of distinctively un-Fernlike features, most notably a specialist reproductive spike upon which the spores are produced (most Ferns produce spores on the underside of their leaves), an absence of sclerenchyma (woody cells), vascular bundles in the petioles (leaf stems), and leaves which do not uncoil like those of other Ferns. Also notable, and of particular interest to Plant biologists, are the unusually large karyotypes (chromosome numbers) of many Adder's Tongue Ferns, with one species, Ophioglossum reticulatum from the Shevaroy Hills, of south India reported to have 720 chromosomes, more than has been recorded from any other Plant or Animal.

In a paper published in the journal Scientific Reports on 22 December 2021, Banwari Yadav of the Department of Life Science at Mewar University, Mukesh Meghvansi of the Bioprocess Technology Division at the Defence Research and Development Establishment, Kanta Meena of the Department of Botany at Manikya Lal Verma Government College, and the late CB Gena of Maharaja Ganga Singh University, describe a new species of Adder's Tongue Fern from Rajasthan State, India.

The new species is named Ophioglossum trilokinathii in honour of Triloki Nath Bhardwaja, the former Vice Chancellor of Vardhman Mahaveer Open University, and an expert on ferns. It is a small Fern, reaching 1.1-2.4 cm in height, growing from an almost globular tuberous rhizome. It has young, fleshy roots emerging from the base of its rhizome, with older, often decaying roots further up the side. Four or five trophophylls (leaves) are arranged in a rosette, flat to the substrate, from which a stalk 0.7–1.5 cm long, with two rows of lateral sporangia and a sterile tip emerges.

Ophioglossum trilokinathii. (A) Habitat. (B) Entire plant with aggregation of roots of previous season (older roots) at rhizome apex. (C) Rhizome showing basipetal emergence of roots. (D) Trophophyll-size, shape and venation. Yadav et al. (2021).

All of the discovered specimens (roughly 300-350 individual Plants) were within an area of a metre squared, close to the village of Mainal in Chittorgarh District, Rajasthan, at an altitude of about 507 m above sealevel. The plants sprouted from their underground rhizomes in June or July, within two weeks of the first rains, and disappeared by mid-September.

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