Melichrus urceolatus / M. erubescens complex

Aim: Conservation Genomics
Project initiation: Aug 2020
Project lead: Helen Kennedy | University of New England

Jan 2021 update:
The project was ended as the plant material available was not suitable for Genotyping by Sequencing.

Melichrus urceolatus. Reproduced with permission from Helen Kennedy.

Project description:

Melichrus R.Br. (Ericaceae: Epacridoideae) are infamous for their prickly touch, a quality which can perhaps explain, if not excuse the dearth of taxonomic research in this genus. As a consequence, much of the morphological and genetic diversity in this group of endemic Australian shrubs is yet to be discovered or described. This Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS) supported project aims to test species boundaries in Melichrus and therefore describe the species diversity in Melichrus comprehensively.

A total evidence approach, integrating data from morphological (morphometric), anatomical, ultrastructural and molecular (genotyping-by-sequencing) analyses will be used to test species boundaries. This study prioritises the production of easy-to-use resources for species identification including, photographic references, descriptions, keys and the first Flora of Australia treatment for the genus.

A taxonomy that captures both the evolutionary history and the morphological diversity of Melichrus is needed as a foundation for studies on their biology, and for strategic management and conservation of the species, many of which are severely threatened by human-impact.