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Lomatia tasmanica is a highly endangered shrub (in the plant family Proteaceae) which is known from just a single small population in southwestern Tasmania. Although it flowers occasionally, fruit production has never been observed and it is believed to propagate only vegetatively. It is believed to be a natural triploid (i.e., with each cell including three copies of each chromosome, rather than the more usual two), a phenomenon that is not rare in plants but which often results in sterility due to an inability to form functional gametes (sperm and egg cells) during meiosis.

Allozyme data collected in the late 1990s suggest that the world population of this species consists of a single vegetatively propagated clone. The species occurs in a diversity of riparian habitats ranging from mixed forest to sclerophyll scrub and regenerating implicate rainforest (a type of low cool temperate rainforest, usually less than 20 metres in height, with a dense, tangled understorey from canopy level down to the ground). It is most common in the implicate rainforest where there is very high humidity.

The extreme rarity of this species, its inability to reproduce sexually, and its lack of any (known) genetic diversity conspire to make it highly vulnerable to extinction in the near future. Major threats include too-frequent fires and the root-rot fungus Phyophthora cinnamomi. As of 2004, the entire world population consisted of around 600 ramets (i.e., plant stems from a single clone, or genet). The species has been propagated (by cuttings) at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Efforts have also been made to culture tissue from this species in the lab.

(Lynch et al. 1998; Lynch and Balmer 2004; Harris et al. 2009)


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© Leo Shapiro

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