25-29 Jul, 2009 -Botany & Mycology 2009 (Snowbird, Utah, USA). Solanum PBI session summary, 28 July, 1:00-5:15pm
By Sandy Knapp.
This session, dedicated to the results of the Planetary Biodiversity Inventory project "PBI Solanum: a worldwide treatment", started off with a welcome from PI Lynn Bohs , who then reviewed the project goals and assessed how we had done after the five year grant period. Goals were met in databasing (a whopping almost 60K collections on-line), field work (many trips with almost 30 new taxa described), and species descriptions (more than 600 on-line on Solanaceae Source). The project website, Solanaceae Source, is heavily populated with specimens, descriptions, images and associated data. Lynn also touched on those things we did not accomplish over the five years - but overall the progress has been good.
Next, Sandy Knapp  explored whether or not the PBI model of "taxonomy as a team sport" was effective at accelerating the rate of taxonomic description, thought by many to be essential to the understanding of biodiversity and species loss. The answer is a qualified yes, but several challenges need to be considered by both individuals and institutions.
Lisa Walley  then described the technological challenges for the establishment of the Solanaceae Source website, and outlined the changes the technological environment has undergone since the project began. A considerable challenge is to make the information we generate available to "everyone, everywhere", especially in a rapidly changing and volatile technological world.
Shannon Croutch  outlined the efforts undertaken at the New York Botanical Garden to database the entire Solanum holdings, which represent probably the largest and best curated collection in the world. She showed how the data generated from such a complete database could be queried to answer key questions about collection history and composition. Kim Watson's [P1SP073] poster, exhibited the day before, also addressed specimen issues, and compared the geographical coverage of the two main databases, that held at NYBG and that held at NHM in BRAHMS.
The gears shifted a bit then, when Donald McClelland  showed results of his PhD work on the Pacific Solanum section Dunaliana. The group as traditionally defined appears to be non-monophyletic, and Donald's preliminary molecular results revealed some interesting groupings of these fascinating plants; he also presented results of recent field work in New Caledonia.
Maria Vorontsova  continued the taxonomic theme with her analysis of why African Solanums have been such a thorny tangle for taxonomists over the years. She attributed this to three main factors, lack of species diagnostics, lost types and misattribution (copying) in the literature. Her solutions were practical, and she presented new information on "found" lost types.
Sandy Knapp  then showed work done with Chinese colleagues Jin-Xiu Wang and Tian-Gang Gao (who unfortunately could not be there in person) on using the ancient Chinese literature to explore eggplant (Solanum melongena) domestication; this linked back to a talk given the previous day by Rachel Meyer  of the New York Botanical Garden on eggplant phylogeography.
After a break, the session resumed with Eric Tepe's  examination of Solanum section Pteroidea using a several gene molecular analysis. He found the section as previously delimited was monophyletic, but that character evolution in the group was extremely complex and homoplastic.
Stephen Stern  looked at the sectional classification of the "spiny Solanums", the single largest clade in the genus (the Leptostemonum clade), using molecular data. He found that many of the sections as currently delimited were not monophyletic, and used sections Micracantha and Erythrotrichum to explore some of the issues involved with finding morphological synapomorphies for Solanum groups.
Michael Nee  then outlined the history of botanical exploration in Bolivia, and how his and others recent collections have been instrumental in improving the understanding of the genus in this hotspot of diversity. He emphasised the need to revisit type localities to understand species delimitation in Solanum.
The last set of papers were all related to the economically important potatoes. Mercedes Ames  discussed her PhD work on Solanum series Piurana, a Peruvian group with complex morphology and relationships. She showed how a practical morphological species concept could be applied in conjunction with molecular data, and discussed new ways to recognise the monophyletic group she defined.
Diego Fajardo  presented results of his PhD work on Solanum series Conicibaccata, another Andean potato group. He showed, using a series of replicated field trials, how both morphology and molecules could be confusing in this group, and that the number of species recognised needed to be much reduced.
Flor Rodríguez  showed how COSII markers can be used to more effectively resolve phylogenetic signal in potatoes and tomatoes. Her data resolved previously ambiguous groups and revealed the shared evolutionary history and sister group status of the potatoes and tomatoes.
David Spooner  summarised the work of the Wisconsin node of the PBI Solanum project, and showed how, in contrast to other groups in the genus, the taxonomic story in potatoes is one of synonymisation rather than of new species discovery. Allele sharing among clades, polyploidy (explored the next day by Tatyana Gavrilenko [66003, 66004]) and hybridisation all contribute to the complex situation in potatoes.
Last, but not least, Danying Cai  showed new results into the understanding of polyploidy in potatoes using many of the COSII markers in a multilocus analysis. Her results revealed complex patterns and point the way for new investigations.
Photo: Presenters at the Snowbird meeting.
A great deal has been accomplished over the five years of the PBI Solanum project, and we are grateful to NSF for putting faith in our ideas - there is much left to do, however, but a new nucleus of Solanum workers has formed due to the project and the work will carry on.