SASSB 2022 Webinar Series
WorkshopWe want to hear about your systematics research! The Southern African Society for Systematic Biology is hosting a webinar series to enable sharing of systematic research, both local and international, and to offer an online space for discussion about your systematic biology research, thoughts, & questions. The webinar will be a two-hour session on the First Thursday of the month at 16h00 SA Standard Time/Central Africa Time (UTC+02:00). The first half will be either recorded or live talks by an invited plenary speaker who will share their work on a specific theme, followed by a shorter talk within the same theme. After the talks and a Q&A session, the online space will be held open for 30 minutes for informal discussions and chats about the research presented, or other topics of interest to the systematics community.
For a line-up of speakers, you can also visit the SASSB website. Links will be distributed following registration, so be sure to sign up! Please contact Prof Fanus Venter if you have any questions.
SASSB Youtube channel: Click here
Previous events, themes and speakers
3 June 2021: Theme: Calibrating phylogenetic trees. invited speaker: Dr. Seraina Klopfstein. (Click here to view presentation)
1 July 2021: (Joint session with FABI international series). Theme: Fungal evolution. Invited speaker: Dr. David Hibbett. (Click here to view presentation)
5 August 2021: Theme: Systematics In Angiosperm Taxonomy and Evolution. Invited speaker: Dr. Sandra Knapp. (Click here to view presentation)
2 September 2021: Theme: Biogeography. Invited speaker: Dr. Isabel Sanmartin. (Click here to view presentation)
3 September 2021: Workshop on Bayesian methods in biogeography, presented by Dr. Isabel Sanmartin.
14 October 2021: Theme: Digital taxonomic data. Invited speaker: Donat Agosti, Plazi, Bern, Switzerland.
15 October 2021: Workshop on Data liberation from taxonomic literature using Plazi, presented by Marcus Guidoti, Carolina Socorowicz, and Donat Agosti
17 November 2021: (Join session with SASSB AGM). Theme Bayesian spatiotemporal reconstruction of SARS-CoV-2 spread. Invited speaker: Dr. Philippe Lemey, Rega Institute at KU Leuven, Belgium.
Scheduled events, themes and speakers
7 April 2022: Theme: Palaeosystematics Invited speaker: Prof. Jonah Choiniere
5 May 2022: Theme: Bacterial genomic diversity Invited speaker: Dr. Luis M. Rodriguez-R
2 June 2022: Theme: Plant Systematics and Evolution Invited speaker: Prof. Vinita Gowda
Upcoming seminar: 2 June 2022 - Time: 16:00 (GMT+2)
Plenary speaker: Prof. Vinita Gowda, Tropical Ecology and Evolution Lab (TrEE lab), Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal, India
Title: Understanding generation, evolution and maintenance of plant biodiversity in India
Catherine Brink: Genetic structure and diversity of a Salinibacter ruber population
Dr. Diego Castillo: Genome resolved metagenomics reveals widespread microbial chemolithoautotrophic potential in the Southern Ocean
Please fill in the registration form below should you wish to attend the SASSB 2022 Webinar Series. You will be provided with information regarding the seminar for each month via email, thus please ensure to give the correct email address.
Seminars for May 5, 2022
Plenary speaker: Dr. Luis M. Rodriguez-R, Department of Microbiology & Digital Science Center (DiSC), University of Innsbruck, Austria
Title: Indexing the Genomic Diversity of Archaea and Bacteria with MiGA, the Microbial Genomes Atlas.
Abstract: During the past decade the number of publicly available sequenced prokaryotic genomes has grown at an unprecedented rate. Yet, the information behind this trove of data remains difficult to access, and genome-based comparisons against comprehensive databases remain technically cumbersome and computationally intensive. To address these issues, we have developed MiGA, the Microbial Genomes Atlas, a genomic data analysis framework integrating best practices in genome processing and quality evaluation, fast genome-based querying of reference databases, and robust statistical tests of taxonomic classification and novelty. In order to democratize access to the MiGA framework, we have also implemented user-friendly interfaces including web-based browsing and administration for all users, a complete command-line interface for intermediate users, and a fully documented Ruby API for advanced users. In addition, we have deployed MiGA to a variety of environments that users can access freely including MiGA Online for detailed manual curation of individual entries and MiGA @ XSEDE for high-throughput genome processing. In addition, we use the various MiGA features to curate and maintain reference genome collections including all determined genomes from type material of named species (TypeMat), a dereplicated set of genomes determined by culture-independent techniques such as single cell genomics and genome-resolved metagenomics (Uncultivated), 8 environment-specific genome collections, and over 700 collections for specific taxonomic groups, allowing the accurate, precise, and comprehensive taxonomic classification of query genomes. To date, MiGA has processed over 50 thousand jobs from users around the globe (including 1500 registered users), the MiGA Online webserver has been used in over 250 publications, and the framework is actively being ported to additional environments including high-performance computing centers and cloud computing platforms. The MiGA codebase, its interfaces, and the online deployments are available at http://microbial-genomes.org/.
Biography: Luis M. Rodriguez-R is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Microbiology & Digital Science Center (DiSC), University of Innsbruck, Austria.
Speaker: Catherine Brink, University of Pretoria
Title: Genetic structure and diversity of a Salinibacter ruber population.
Abstract: The patterns of diversity that shape and maintain microbial communities are still poorly understood due to the complexity of natural environments and the difficulties associated with cultivating many microbial species. Extreme environments, with limited resources and interspecies variation, provide a way to overcome some of these barriers and allow the study of evolutionary processes such as selection and recombination within populations. In this study, we consider a dataset of 63 Salinibacter ruber isolate genomes as well as a metagenome from the same solar saltern sample and show that the population exists in a distinct, reproducible structure that is supported by multiple phylogenetic and numeric hypotheses. The structure is made up of approximately six monophyletic clades that are equally abundant in the metagenome and may provide the perfect model to study the processes that are responsible for creating and maintaining microdiversity in extreme environments.
Speaker: Dr. Diego Castillo, University of Pretoria
Title: Genome resolved metagenomics reveals widespread microbial chemolithoautotrophic potential in the Southern Ocean.
Abstract: Marine microbiota are essential mediators of biogeochemical cycles. In the Southern Ocean, nutrient recycling is tightly coupled to the availability of trace elements. Yet, despite their importance, we lack key insights regarding the metabolic potential of bacteria and archaea in this region. This knowledge deficit is particularly true for the dark ocean, where microbiota have profound impacts on local and global food webs. We constructed 628 metagenome-assembled genomes (MAGs) and explored the evolutionary dynamics and metabolic potential bacteria and archaea in aphotic zones of the Southern Ocean. These MAGs demonstrate capacity for inorganic carbon fixation using the Calvin- and Arnon-Buchanan cycles. Metapangenomic analyses revealed that several genes linked to the oxidation of reduced nutrients, including ammonia, nitrite, and thiosulfate, were shared by microbiota throughout the aphotic water column through horizontal gene transfer. MAGs with chemolithoautotrophic lifestyles including Nitrosophaeria, Gammaproteobacteria and SAR324 were ubiquitously distributed throughout the dark SO. These chemolithoautotrophic genomes also harbour the potential for carbohydrate degradation, suggesting mixotrophy may be an important metabolic strategy in this region. Altogether, these results further our understanding of the functional microbial structure and metabolic capabilities of the largest marine carbon sink on Earth.
Seminars for April 7, 2022
Plenary speaker: Prof. Jonah Chioniere – Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand
Title: Dinosaurs of darkness: how owl-like senses independently evolved in the ancestors of birds
Abstract: Living owls are the quintessential night hunters, using visual and auditory adaptations to catch prey even in complete darkness. These traits are rare in living birds, but could they have evolved in their ancestors - theropod dinosaurs? Understanding sensory evolution is challenging in the fossil record, however, and doing so requires novel means of data collection. To examine this question, we CT scanned the skulls of more than 100 birds and non-avian dinosaurs, and used these scans to reconstruct the inner ear, parts of which reflect auditory capabilities. We also collected information on the maximum size of the pupil using small bones of the reptile eye known as scleral ossicles. When combined, these two proxies allowed us to confidently infer that alvarezsaurs, a bizarre group of non-avian dinosaurs, had hearing and vision that were well-suited for nocturnal habits. We hypothesized that these adaptations would have served them well in the sandy desert environments of the Cretaceous of Mongolia, where harsh conditions and cryptic prey posed challenges for survival.
Biography: Jonah Choiniere is the Professor of Comparative Palaeobiology at the Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of the Witwatersrand. He studies the systematics and evolution of dinosaurs, crocodylomorphs, and their early branching reptilian ancestors. He leads field-based research excavations in South Africa and Zimbabwe to collect new fossil species. His overarching interest is in understanding the effects of the End-Triassic Mass Extinction on planetary biodiversity, which happened 200mya and ushered in the Age of the Dinosaurs.
Speaker: Dr. Viktor J Radermacher: Evolutionary Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Minnesota,USA
Title: Lineage origin, historical migration patterns, and the contributions of geographic proximity and ecological filtering to dispersal in an African-centred paper daisy lineage.
Abstract: Ornithischia is one of the three major clades of dinosaurs and includes well-known and cherished taxa like the horned Triceratops, spiked Stegosaurus, and crested duck-billed Parasaurolophus. The last half a century has seen considerable strides in elucidating the biology of dinosaurs, elevating fossils from interesting rocks into living breathing animals. However, much of this research effort has been concentrated on the long-necked sauropodomorphs and carnivorous theropods – the precursors to modern birds – rendering Ornithischia neglected by comparison; a fate exacerbated by a scant early fossil record for the clade. Furthermore, while we know many ancillary aspects of ornithischian life history like dietary preferences and social behaviours, a satisfying understanding of their ventilatory anatomy remains elusive – an area of study pivotal in bringing other dinosaurian lineages into the modern paradigm as dynamic, energetically demanding animals. We present a new specimen of the early-branching South African ornithischian Heterodontosaurus tucki that preserves a suite of new and unexpected postcranial material. Visualised using phase-contrast enhanced synchrotron microCT data, this new anatomy is pertinent in providing a high-resolution glimpse into the early evolution of this group, allow us to posit a step-wise hypothesis for their ventilatory evolution, and better understand the macroevolutionary constraints imposed on the lineage’s subsequent 130 Million year radiation.
Speaker: Dr Kimi Chapelle, American Museum of Natural History, New York, New York
Title: A quantitative method for inferring locomotory shifts in amniotes during ontogeny and its application to dinosaurs.
Abstract: Evolutionary transitions between quadrupedal and bipedal postures are pivotal to the diversification of amniotes on land. Within Dinosauria there are at least four instances of lineages evolving quadrupedality from bipedality. Similarly, developmental, or ontogenetic postural shifts from quadrupedality to bipedality have been hypothesized in several dinosaur taxa, including the iconic southern African basal sauropodomorph dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus Owen (1854). However both non-destructive and quantitative methods for testing this in extinct species have been lacking. We extend such a method for reliably inferring posture in tetrapods to the study of ontogenetic postural transitions using measurements of proportional limb robusticity. We apply this to the ontogenetic series of living and extinct amniotes, focusing on dinosaurs. Our method correctly predicts the general pattern of ontogenetic conservation of quadrupedal and bipedal postures in many living amniote species and infers the same pattern in most dinosaurs. We infer a transition from early-ontogenetic quadrupedality to late-ontogenetic bipedality in only two dinosaur taxa. The phylogenetic positions of these shifts suggest that heterochrony may play a role in the macroevolution of posture, at least in dinosaurs.
Seminars for November 17, 2021
Plenary speaker: Dr. Philippe Lemey, Rega Institute at KU Leuven, Belgium.
Title: Evolutionary origins of SARS-CoV-2 and tracking its spread using phylodynamic data integration.
Abstract: SARS-CoV-2 genome data has been crucial to track the rapidly changing COVID-19 epidemic. The accumulation of high data volumes over short time makes time-consuming Bayesian phylogenetic inference impractical for real-time analyses. However, SARS-CoV-2 genomes come with a number of other challenges that can be confronted by Bayesian phylodynamic approaches. Specifically, these methods can take advantage of data integration opportunities and result in more realistic spatiotemporal reconstruction of SARS-CoV-2 spread. This will be demonstrated through the incorporation of global mobility data, individual travel histories and upsampled diversity in phylogeographic reconstructions. Such approaches allow addressing important epidemiological questions, such as to what extent lineage persistence and new introductions contributed to the COVID-19 resurgence in Europe late summer 2020. Various ways of making Bayesian inference more efficient and scalable will be highlighted in different settings.
Biography: Philippe Lemey holds a PhD degree in Medical Sciences from KU Leuven, Belgium (2005), and was a Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellow in the Evolutionary Biology group at the Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, from 2005 to 2007. Philippe is now a full Professor at the Rega Institute, KU Leuven, where he studies the evolutionary processes that shape viral genetic diversity, spanning large-scale epidemic processes as well as small-scale transmission histories and within-host evolutionary processes. He is the senior editor of the second edition of the Phylogenetic Handbook and a two-time ERC grant awardee. His team contributes to the BEAST software (http://beast.community) for phylogenetic and phylodynamic reconstruction, with applications to many viruses, most notably HIV, influenza, Ebola, Lassa virus and SARS-CoV-2.
Seminars for October 14, 2021
Plenary speaker: Dr. Donat Agosti, President and founder of Plazi, Switzerland
Title: Plazi: unlocking the scientific literature related to biodiversity.
Abstract: Scholarly knowledge about biodiversity is documented in hundreds of millions of pages of scientific literature. This includes original descriptions of all species on earth, and the chain of taxonomic treatments that might follow them, linked by citation. These treatments include statements about species distribution, behaviour, life forms, ecology, conservation status, and changes to species limits through splitting or synonymy. Each taxonomic name has at least one taxonomic treatment, a well delimited section in a scholarly publication. In the digital age, linking a taxonomic name to the respective treatment allows a potential entry point to all other knowledge about that species within the digital realm. This not only provides immediate online access, but it can save tremendous time and effort for researchers. Plazi is a Swiss NGO with the mission to liberate data from taxonomic publications and make it openly and immediately accessible. It is a virtual organization with a production facility in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It maintains two research infrastructures, TreatmentBank and the Biodiversity Literature Repository, which liberate data and provide long term access respectively. Currently, Plazi has liberated over 600,000 taxonomic treatments and 400,000 figures from over 65,000 articles. Data can be analysed and assessed for article and treatment level data. Quality controlled data is available permanently on the Biodiversity Literature Repository or via applications providing a general image (Ocellus) or taxonomic names (Synospecies) based access. These data are increasingly reused. Plazi provides over 55% of datasets to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), making it the largest single dataset provider, and is the sole source of over 80,000 species names from its publications mediated data. Over 489 publications have been based on these data to date. Plazi has developed tools to liberate data that are openly accessible, and is opening up courses to allow partners to make use of these tools and infrastructure to process their specific publications, such as those covering a particular taxon or geographic region, or published by a natural history institution. This presentation will provide an overview of Plazi, it’s data and processing and thoughts on how to involve the community.
Biography: Donat Agosti is President and founder of Plazi, a Swiss NGO started in 2008. He obtained a PhD in natural sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, and undertook postdoctoral fellowships at the Natural History Museum in London, the Australian National Insect Collection, the American Museum of Natural History, and a fellowship at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. He specialized in ant systematics, collected ants in over 40 countries, published numerous scientific articles, and co-edited a widely cited handbook on measuring and monitoring biodiversity using ants. In 1995 he developed a website to provide taxonomic data on all the ants of the world (antbase.org), which led to the development of Plazi and its two research infrastructures, TreatmentBank and the Biodiversity Literature Repository, demonstrating the power of providing access to data extracted directly from publications. With Plazi he leads the development of novel means of liberating taxonomic data from the primary literature, including the TaxPub/JATS XML schemas for taxonomic treatments, and more recently, the new MaterialCitation class in the Darwin Core standard which allows for specimens cited in the literature to be linked directly to their occurrence records provided by museums or other sources. He works closely with Pensoft Publishers to implement these tools to automate data extraction from the literature, with over 30 journals now making use of them, including Phytokeys, Zookeys, and African Invertebrates. Plazi also publishes treatment article datasets directly to GBIF, which provide over 80 000 taxon names which do not exist in any other GBIF datasets. He currently lives in Switzerland, has lived and worked in the UK, Australia, USA, Egypt, Iran, and France, due to a better, diplomatic half who, at the same time is one of the main reasons Plazi and many of the advances in access to biodiversity literature materialized. He is father of two sons, neither of whom wanted to become a biologist. He enjoys exploring nature and is an avid iNaturalist user.
Speaker: Thembile Khoza: Zoological Research, Foundational Research and Services, SANBI
Title: Compiling and dissemination of Animal Checklist for South African species.
Abstract: The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) is mandated through National Environmental Management: Biodiversity Act (2004) to co-ordinate and promote the taxonomy of South Africa’s biodiversity. In partial fulfillment of the mandate, SANBI embarked on an initiative to develop and regularly update the checklist of animals in the country. The checklist is to list the estimated 65000 animal species described from South Africa, their distribution and conservation status. In collaboration with partner institutions and taxon experts, a checklist of South African animal taxa is compiled and systematically updated based on literature and expert consultations. Up-to-date lists are shared as an open, freely accessible and trusted digital resource through National Biodiversity Information System (NBIS). To date, progress has been made on most of the major groups with taxon experts working on them, these include arachnids, butterflies, mammals, birds, fishes, frogs and reptiles. The National Animal Checklist is guided by the animal checklist policy, which provides standard guidelines for the compilation, updating, verification and curation.
Speaker: Ronell Klopper: Foundational Research & Services Directorate, SANBI
Title: The South African National Plant Checklist and e-Flora of South Africa projects.
Abstract: The South African National Plant Checklist forms the taxonomic backbone to which all other data on our unique plant diversity are linked. The e-Flora of South Africa builds on the checklist and provides descriptive data for every species. Together these two resources deliver the foundational data required for plant diversity research and projects in South Africa. This presentation will give a brief overview of the SA National Plant Checklist and the e-Flora of South Africa projects, their history, aspects around their compilation, and outputs from these initiatives.
Seminars for September 2, 2021
Plenary speaker: Dr. Isabel Sanmartin, Department of Plant Biodiversity and Conservation, Royal Botanical Garden, CSIC
Title: The Rand Flora Revisited: New approaches for bridging the micro and macroevolutionary levels in biogeography and evolution
Abstract: Evolutionary biologists and biogeographers, in their efforts to determine which factors govern biodiversity dynamics, have used two approaches that differ primarily in the taxonomy level they focus on: microevolutionary processes (genetic drift, mutation, migration) act mostly on individuals and populations, while macroevolutionary processes (extinction, dispersal, speciation) focuses on diversification at and above species level in relation to environments and over longer time scales. These two levels are difficult to bridge because they often imply different analytical techniques (population genetics vs. phylogenetics) and data sources (multicopy DNA vs nucleotide substitutions in protein-coding genes). The advent of Next Generation Sequencing techniques has made this feasible by scaling up the numbers of genes, individuals, populations, and species sampled in a cost-effective way. Techniques like target sequencing permit to obtain large datasets of DNA sequences for hundreds or thousand of markers across different phylogenetic levels. This molecular revolution has gone in hand in hand with new advances in the development of analytical approaches, and the exponential growth of bioinformatics. In this conference, I will review advances in the fields of statistical phylogenetics and machine learning, and show with examples how their integration with NGS molecular techniques and external sources of evidence (e.g., paleoclimatic reconstructions, ecological traits) allow us to explore patterns and processes of biotic assembly at different spatio-temporal scales, from extinction and adaptation of species to climate change to population decline and demographic expansion in more recent times. For this, I will use a continental floristic riddle, the Rand Flora, where sister-taxa at various taxonomic levels (populations, species, clades) occur on opposite sides of the African continent; the pattern has been explained by the effects of ancient and ongoing climate-driven extinction.
Biography: I am a senior scientist at the Royal Botanical Garden, CSIC, and an evolutionary biologist interested in the theory and methods of biogeographical inference. One of my research areas is the analysis of macroevolutionary patterns of distributions across a diverse array of organisms (plants, animals, fungi). Another is the development of new analytical tools, especially Bayesian inferential methods, to unravel those processes underlying species distributions. My latest projects focus on the integration of phylogenomic data into such tools and the use of additional sources of evidence (fossil record, environmental models) to understand the link between climate change, geographic evolution, and extinction.
Speaker: Joanne Bentley: African Climate Development Initiative (ACDI), University of Cape Town
Title: Lineage origin, historical migration patterns, and the contributions of geographic proximity and ecological filtering to dispersal in an African-centred paper daisy lineage.
Abstract: Background: Long-distance dispersal and range expansion were explored in the “Relhania clade”, a diverse (ca. 120 species) and morphologically-disparate lineage of “paper daisies” (Gnaphalieae: Asteraceae) that associates with cool-growing season habitats in southern and East Africa, and in the greater Mediterranean region. A model-based biogeographic approach was used to explore historical range movements in the Relhania clade by inferring the centre of origin and the directionality and timing of range expansion. The relative importance of geographical distance and ecological filtering as determinants of dispersal was also explored. Results: Multiple northwards migrations from a centre of origin in southern Africa were inferred since the Miocene, with geographic proximity being a strong determinant of dispersal. Ecological filtering was also found to shape dispersal in this clade, with members selecting to migrate within a moderate temperature and rainfall range, avoiding extreme niches.
Speaker: Seth Musker: University of Bayreuth (linked to UCT)
Title: The genomics of dynamic diversification on a continental archipelago: the case of Erica abietina from the Cape Floristic Region: Or ‘What to call the things that I’m calling things’.
Abstract: There is an increasing recognition that understanding the process of speciation requires detailed investigation of systems in which species limits are ‘fuzzy’ and factors such as divergence, convergence, gene flow and selection are at play. With close to 700 species, Erica L. (heathers; Ericaceae) is by far the largest plant genus in the Cape Floristic Region, and yet the reasons for its diversity remain obscure. One remarkable characteristic is the apparent lability of floral trait evolution, as indicated by a phylogenetic hypothesis of roughly 60% of Cape Erica (Pirie et al., 2016). Erica abietina L. s.l. (Pirie et al., 2017) shows clear variation in floral length and colour: of its four subspecies, two (E. a. abietina and E. a. atrorosea) have long flowers (18-26 mm) and two (E. a. constantiana and E. a. diabolis) have short flowers (8-14 mm), while one (E. a. abietina) has red flowers, and the rest are pink (Oliver & Oliver, 2002) . The species is confined to the Cape Peninsula, an isolated mountain range separated from the rest of the Cape Fold mountains by an extensive plain of mostly unsuitable habitat. These factors make E. abietina an excellent subject for speciation research at the interface of micro- and macroevolution. Using reduced-representation sequencing (GBS; (Elshire et al., 2011) ) data from 61 E. abietina samples representing all subspecies and several putative hybrids, we uncovered several interesting and sometimes unexpected patterns:
- The four subspecies are genetically distinct, but absolute divergence varies considerably;
- the short- and long-flowered subspecies are not each other’s closest relatives, suggesting convergent evolution of floral traits;
- there are two previously unrecognized genetic groups within E. a. atrorosea that are geographically isolated and associate with different geological substrates;
- both between and within floral types, individuals with mixed ancestry are common and occur in geographical contact zones, in one case forming a hybrid swarm; and
- networks including two reticulations involving both E. a. atrorosea lineages are strongly favored over the best-supported strictly bifurcating species tree.
To dive deeper, we investigated the role of selection in divergence of the very closely related and parapatric E. a. abietina and E. a. diabolis by scanning for highly divergent loci. BLAST searches of candidate loci uncovered two interesting cases: 1) a locus near a probable flavonol synthase gene which could be involved in flower colour variation, and 2) a locus near a probable microtubule-associated protein coding gene, which might regulate petal cell growth and thus control flower
length. We hypothesize that strong divergent selection acting on flower-trait genes is responsible for the maintenance of these distinct forms despite ongoing gene flow, and that these subspecies could be in the very early stages of speciation.
Seminars for August 5, 2021
Plenary speaker: Dr. Sandra Knapp, Department of Life Sciences, Natural History Museum, London.
Title: Solanaceae – more than potatoes and tomatoes!
Abstract: The nightshade family – Solanaceae – is the source of many products used by people all over the world, way more than just the origin of chips and ketchup. For only a medium-sized plant family, the nightshades really pack a punch, both in terms of commercially important foods and medicines, but also in terms of under utilised crops important for local agriculture. For understanding the potential utility of these species, both taxonomy – species recognition and identification – and phylogenetics – species relationships – are vitally important. One without the other only gives us half the power. I will briefly review the diversity of the family, then focus on the megadiverse genus Solanum. With more than 1,200 species and distributed worldwide, Solanum is most diverse in the Neotropics, but recent work has shown that diversification is fastest in Africa and Australia, counter to expectations. Africa has also been crucial in the evolution of several crops – some globally, some locally important. I will explore the nexus between taxonomy and phylogeny in Solanum, and finally suggest areas for further research into both that will aid our understanding of both biology and conservation of these plants both ex situ and in their native ranges.
Biography: Dr Sandra Knapp is a botanist who is a specialist on the taxonomy and evolution of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, and she has spent much time in the field collecting plants, mostly in South America. She works at the Natural History Museum, London, where she arrived in 1992 to manage the international project Flora Mesoamericana - a synoptic inventory of the approximately 18,000 species of plants of southern Mexico and the isthmus of Central America. She is the author of several popular books on the history of science and botanical exploration, including the award-winning Potted Histories (2004), and more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific papers. She is actively involved in promoting the role of taxonomy and the importance of science worldwide. Sandy is a trustee of several conservation and scientific organisations, and in May 2018 took office as President of the Linnean Society of London. In 2009 she was honored by the Peter Raven Outreach Award by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists for her work in public engagement with science and the UK National Biodiversity Network’s John Burnett Medal for her work in biodiversity conservation; she holds honorary professorships at University College London and Stockholm University. She is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Academia Nacional de Ciencias in Argentina. Her work in Solanaceae spans biodiversity from taxonomy to phylogenetics and evolution, with a focus on the wild relatives of important solanaceous crops. She is currently working on in-depth taxonomic treatments of members of the family in Australasia