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Darwin’s Galapagos gourd: providing new insights 175 years after his visit

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The year 2010 marks the 175th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s visit to the Galapagos Islands. A recent paper by J. C. Briggs, ‘Darwin’s biogeography’ (Journal of Biogeography, 2009, 36, 1011–1017), summarizes Darwin’s contributions to the field of biogeography, stressing the importance of his natural history specimens. Here, we illustrate how a plant collected by Darwin during his visit to Floreana and not collected since can provide insights into dispersal to oceanic islands as well as extinction of island plants, based on ancient DNA from Darwin’s herbarium specimen.
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Keywords: Cucurbitaceae; Darwin’s herbarium; Galapagos; Sicyos; extinction; island biogeography; molecular clock; phylogenetics; plant viruses

Document Type: Correspondence

Affiliations: 1: Systematic Botany and Mycology, University of Munich (LMU), Menzinger Strasse 67, Munich, Germany 2: Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot, UK

Publication date: 2010-05-01

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