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Presented By: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

EEB Wagner Thursday Seminar Series - Putting Systematics at the Centre: the Mega-genus Solanum (Solanaceae) as a Model System

with Dr. Sandra Knapp, Natural History Museum, London, UK

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This event is part of our ongoing Thursday Seminar Series.

PREVIEW: Systematics or taxonomy is often seen as an end in itself, but like all science it is a key facilitator of downstream studies and innovations. The results of taxonomy (including systematics and phylogeny) are the foundational cornerstones for our understanding of how the world works, and for how we can best conserve and protect a dynamic set of ecosystems for the future. My taxonomic work has focused on Solanum, one of the largest genera of flowering plants, and has involved making sometimes difficult linkages to diverse communities of scientists across plant biology. The size of Solanum, with some 1,250 currently recognised species means that assembling monophyletic groups of species and tackling these monographically has been thought to be too challenging; big genera have been something for taxonomists to avoid. But the landscape is changing, working with these large groups has significant advantages. Solanum also contains many species of agricultural importance, often complicating primary taxonomy with a superfluity of names from the past. Of course, this work has not been done alone, but with a dynamic and exciting group all of whom have brought their skills and perspectives to the task in hand. In this talk I will take you through the journey we have made, from a set of small taxonomically focused monographs and floras to studies involving genomes and advances in plant breeding. The path the Solanum group has taken is always centred in systematics – understanding species and their relationships. Large, species-rich genera like Solanum are traditionally seen as problems, but with a multidisciplinary approach that is broad-minded and open to new ideas and paths, can reveal much about plant evolution. It can also bring systematics and taxonomy to the table as critical components of solutions to today’s societal and environmental problems.

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