June 14, 2024

Fairy lanterns in a new light – wissenschaft.de

This fairy lantern was thought to be extinct for over 30 years. © Kenji Suetsugu

They look like a small lantern illuminating the dark forest floor. For more than 30 years, this unusual plant was considered extinct. Scientists have now reported the species’ rediscovery.

Thismia kobensis grows in the middle of the forest floor where no light falls. Only their colorful flowers stick out from the ground. The plant, which belongs to the Dioscoreales order, is also known as the fairy lantern because of the peculiar shape of these flowers. Unlike most other plants, Thismia kobensis does not meet its energy needs through photosynthesis, but with the help of fungi. He gets the nutrients he needs to survive from these.

About 90 species of Thismia are known worldwide to date. However, some of them are believed to be extinct. Thismia kobensis was one of them until recently. This fairy lantern was originally discovered in 1992 near the Japanese city of Kobe. But despite decades of intense searching, no other representatives have been found.

Scientists from Kobe University have now reported the species’ rediscovery, finding specimens of this species near the city of Sanda, about 30 kilometers from Kobe. This discovery site makes Thismia kobensis the most well-known fairy lantern species in North Asia. The discovery could shed a whole new light on their evolutionary history. By examining the plants more closely, scientists now hope to gain new insights into the distribution and development of fairy lanterns.