Pittsburgh’s Botany Professor Honored for Identifying New Plant Species in Madagascar


One of Neil Snow's plant discoveries has been named in the top 10 new species of 2013 by the International Institute for Species Exploration.

The assistant botany professor at Pittsburgh State University's Department of Biology, is being honored for his discovery of 'Eugenia petrikensis,' a small, woody plant from a coastal region in South-eastern Madagascar off the coast of Africa.

The international science group named the woody plant alongside a charming monkey from the Congo, a tiny frog (the world's smallest vertebrate), and a cockroach that glows in the dark.

Snow said that the identification of this new plant species "was really exciting and professionally satisfying."

"I'm really glad the institute is doing a Top 10 list to bring attention to it," Snow told Joplinglobe. "The article they publish about it each year is the most visited article on their website. "To me, the larger story is how much of this is going on and how little the public knows about it."

The 53-year-old professor said that even if this plant species was not identified and placed in a global picture, certain people knew about its existence.

"The local people know them and know what they can be used for," Snow said in an official statement. "They have their own names for them."

So far, Snow has identified more than 85 new plant species within the myrtle family. He said that although such discoveries do not help humans in their everyday life, it does help solve Earth's biological jig saw puzzle. It helps them send warning signals when species are in need of conservation.

Eugenia petrikensis has been listed as endangered. According to the press statement, "this myrtle species is found only in the specialized humid forest that grows on sandy substrate within kilometres of the shoreline in southeastern Madagascar."

"Once forming a continuous band 1,600 km long, the littoral forest has been reduced to isolated, vestigial fragments under pressure from human populations," Snow said.

"Most of the new things we're finding _ not always, but more often than not _ have a very narrow distribution," Snow told Lebanon Daily Record. "If they didn't, we would have found them a long time ago.

"I want to see these things preserved. This is the only place they'll grow," Snow said.

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