ESR3: Euphrasia: Species delimitation in mega-diverse hemi-parasitic plants

In short

Do you have dry eyes!? Eyebrights (Euphrasia genus) are used in many eyedrops and these hemi-parasitic plants include many red listed species of conservation concern. The Danish species are represented by an extensive historical plant museum (herbarium) collection representing over 150 years of data. It is very difficult to separate species based on the way they look and there is consequently limited expertise on the genus and no experts on the Danish species. Euphrasia plants have very complicated DNA patterns differentiating them, because of extensive hybridization, autogamy, and varying ploidy levels. I will be using innovative molecular techniques to unravel the difficult taxonomy of the Danish species. After defining the species concepts these will be described by morphometrics, using botanical characteristics such as leaf shape and size, and floral parts. The outputs from this study will be the classification and identification of Danish Euphrasia species, an updated and accurate conservation assessment, and early stage protocols for a genus-level reference database.

Project description

Euphrasia is a genus of about 350 taxonomic species of hemi-parasitic plants mostly from colder climates and with many red-listed species, but it has a difficult taxonomy partly due to extensive hybridization. Target capture of many unlinked genes from a unique sample set of more than 1000 collections from the Atlas Flora Danica of about 9 Danish taxa will be used to untangle patterns of hybridization from incomplete lineage sorting. Morphological traits enabling recognition of genetically supported clusters (potential species) will be identified using morphometry. A time series will be produced of selected red-listed Danish species from historical collections to monitor changes in occurrence data over the past 100 years. Finally, the target capture protocol will be used based on historical herbarium collections to build a genus level reference database and phylogenetic hypothesis of all 350 currently recognized species.