Discovery of 'cryptic species' shows Earth is even more biologically diverse

Dated 2020 - but news to me

A growing number of “cryptic species” hiding in plain sight have been unmasked in the past year, driven in part by the rise of [DNA barcoding]

(Counting the species: how DNA barcoding is rewriting the book of life | Biodiversity | The Guardian), a technique that can identify and differentiate between animal and plant species using their genetic divergence
Discovery of 'cryptic species' shows Earth is even more biologically diverse | Wildlife | The Guardian.

For a plant example there’s the liverwort Conocephalum conicum, which was found in a molecular study to be a species complex - the two British members are Conocephalum conicum sensu strictu and Conocephalum salebrosum.

A web search finds a paper reporting that Paris yunnanensis is composed of two species.

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Cryptic speciation refers to cases where species are clearly genetically differentiated, but show little or no morphological differences.
For the liverwort mentioned, Conocephalum, this site gave ways to distinguish the two species, albeit mainly microscopic till one has the « jizz » of them sufficiently established.

I think that ID of cryptic species, divided on DNA analysis, is going to make life more difficult for field biologists, though it might help those trying to analyse biodiversity.

Lots of researchers publishing these days seem happier in the lab than the field.

Had an example of that when a couple of fit healthy lab people came out to help but then rushed back to lab when they realised what it was actually like in the field even though the weather and general environment were not particularly bad that day.

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The concept of cryptic species long predates molecular sequence studies. In the old days they might be discovered by breeding studies, or by chromosome counts; in Conocephalum they were discovered by allozyme studies. Google Scholar’s output is polluted by misdated articles, but the term seems to go back to 1940. Google Books has similar problems, but shows a 1948 review paper using the term. Google Ngrams shows usage of the term kicking in in the early 1950s. The term would seem to be traceable to a paper by Darlington from 1939, but I haven’t found the text or even the full citation.

Cryptic species are species that are so morphologically similar that when studied morphologically they were thought to be a single species. They aren’t necessarily morphologically identical; commonly when it is realised that there are multiple species closer examination often finds diagnostic morphological differences.

The literature on Conocephalum does refer to its species as cryptic species. In contrast the term is scarcely used with Crocus, even though as far as I know there is no reliable means of distinguishing Crocus neapolitanus and Crocus neglectus. (Stace has Crocus neapolitanus as the common species in Britain; on the basis of old karyological work on Dutch crocus cultivars I think that most of them are triploids and tetraploids of Crocus neglectus.

There was a time when researchers studying taxonomy by gene sequencing were disparaginly referred to as “chemists”. On the other hand, I think it’s going to take lab work to disentangle the British Crocus.

This is the answer ChatGPT gave to the question «when was the term « cryptic species » first used? »

The term “cryptic species” was first used by the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr in his 1963 book “Animal Species and Evolution.” Mayr used the term to describe species that are morphologically identical or very similar to one another but are genetically distinct and reproductively isolated. Mayr’s concept of cryptic species has since become an important topic in evolutionary biology and has led to the discovery of many previously unknown species that were hidden within groups of morphologically similar organisms.

However, in Body doubles | Nature
I read « But cryptic species are not new to science. In 1942, Ernst Mayr introduced them to English scientific literature as ‘sibling’ species, translating from the French espèces jumelles or from the German Geschwisterarten«
But that’s still short of Darlington 1939.

So then I asked another question When did Darlington first use the term « cryptic species »? ChatGPT replied thus:

I apologize for my earlier response, I made a mistake. The term “cryptic species” was not first used by Ernst Mayr, but by the British zoologist Cyril Darlington in 1947 in his book “The Facts of Life”. Darlington used the term to describe species that are difficult to distinguish from one another based on their morphological characteristics but are reproductively isolated and therefore distinct evolutionary lineages. Mayr later popularized the term in his 1963 book “Animal Species and Evolution”, and it has since become widely used in evolutionary biology.
What a polite & model language model it is (developed by OpenAI)


Dated 2915 but maybe fitting here.
The bottom line:


I appeal to all gardeners to plant indigenous - to the area. Do your homework and find plants that occur in your local area as then we can be assured that future generations can enjoy the splendour of our natural heritage. Or stick to planting petunias — at least they can’t cross with the local flora.