Sticky and heavily armed, a tomato-relative is the new 'star' of the Brazilian inselbergs

November 20, 2018

Armed with long thorns and sticky stems, newly described plant Solanum kollastrum might look like a villain by plant standards, but a closer look on this curious new species will reveal its star-like nature in the context of its ecosystem.

Recently described in open access journal PhytoKeys, this newly discovered tomato relative boasts stems densely armed with prickles of up to 17 mm long and to 2.3 mm wide at the base.

In fact, the new species is baptised after yet another showy defence mechanism. The name kollastrum comes from the Greek words for glue and star, referring to the peculiar sticky hairs that end in a star-like formation.

While all this heavy armour might at first fool you that this new species lives in isolation, a closer look has revealed that, contrary to the expectations, S. kollastrum starts as the good guy in its ecosystem.

Field observations of the new species have suggested that it's preferred by medium- to large-sized bees with buzzing behaviour. The fruit structure of S. kollastrum, with fruits hanging outside its foliage on long axes, along with the numerous relatively small seeds and the release of a mild sweetish scent, suggest that fruits eaten by bats.

The heavy armour is, in fact, not that unusual in the group of 'spiny solanums' to which the new species belongs. With approximately 110 species of spiny solanums, the Brazilian Solanum flora is exceedingly diverse.

In its own right, Solanum is an extremely diverse plant genus to which important crops such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants belong.

Endemic to eastern Brazil, the known records of the armed new species are mostly concentrated along the Mucuri River watershed, where it inhabits edge of small forest fragments. In fact, the species is especially seen in areas at the base or on the peculiar and gigantic geological formations known as inselbergs or 'sugar loaves'). Some populations were also found in disturbed sites near these rock outcrops, such as borders of unpaved roads and pastures.

"The discovery of S. kollastrum, a robust and conspicuous plant growing at the roadsides in regions close to large urban centres, highlights how insufficiently known the Brazilian flora is," explain authors from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais and Universidade Federal do Oeste do Pará, Brazil.

"This highlights how urgent the need is to describe, study and conserve the country's plant diversity. Thus, we hope that this discovery encourages the study on the most diverse aspects of this species' biology."
-end-
Original Source:

Gouvêa YF, Giacomin LL, Stehmann JR (2018) A sticky and heavily armed new species of Solanum (Solanum subg. Leptostemonum, Solanaceae) from eastern Brazil. PhytoKeys 111: 103-118. https://doi.org/10.3897/phytokeys.111.28595

Pensoft Publishers

Related Biology Articles from Brightsurf:

Experimental Biology press materials available now
Though the Experimental Biology (EB) 2020 meeting was canceled in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, EB research abstracts are being published in the April 2020 issue of The FASEB Journal.

Structural biology: Special delivery
Bulky globular proteins require specialized transport systems for insertion into membranes.

Cell biology: All in a flash!
Scientists of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich have developed a tool to eliminate essential proteins from cells with a flash of light.

A biology boost
Assistance during the first years of a biology major leads to higher retention of first-generation students.

Cell biology: Compartments and complexity
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich biologists have taken a closer look at the subcellular distribution of proteins and metabolic intermediates in a model plant.

Cell biology: The complexity of division by two
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich researchers have identified a novel protein that plays a crucial role in the formation of the mitotic spindle, which is essential for correct segregation of a full set of chromosomes to each daughter cell during cell division.

Cell biology: Dynamics of microtubules
Filamentous polymers called microtubules play vital roles in chromosome segregation and molecular transport.

The biology of color
Scientists are on a threshold of a new era of color science with regard to animals, according to a comprehensive review of the field by a multidisciplinary team of researchers led by professor Tim Caro at UC Davis.

Kinky biology
How and why proteins fold is a problem that has implications for protein design and therapeutics.

A new tool to decipher evolutionary biology
A new bioinformatics tool to compare genome data has been developed by teams from the Max F.

Read More: Biology News and Biology Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.