The origin of Humboldt and Bonpland’s holotype of Oncidium ornithorhynchum Kunth, clarified using over 200 years old DNA

March 29, 2019


by Santiago Madriñán, Natalia Contreras-Ortiz, Teresa Rodríguez-García, Sonia Quintanilla, Jaime Bernal-Villegas, Alberto Gómez-Gutiérrez

Oncidium ornithorhynchum, an epiphytic orchid characterized by erect, pyramidal inflorescences and small yellow flowers, is found in the northern Andes. However, according to the protologue, the type was collected in Mexico during Humboldt and Bonpland’s American expedition (1800–1804). To clarify this problem, we extracted DNA from the ancient holotype. Short range PCRs for plastid (ycf1, trnH-psbA and matK-trnK) and nuclear (nrITS) markers were established and used to infer its phylogenetic placement with several related Central American and Andean orchid species. This provided well-supported and close relationships of the holotype with other North Andean orchids, proving that the locus classicus was confounded. Also Oncidium sotoanum from Mexico, with which Oncidium ornithorhynchum has been often confused, was only distantly related.



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