Typhonium (Arum lilies, Dead horse lilies)

Aim: Phylogenomics Stage 2
Project initiation: Aug 2021
Project lead:  Matthew Barrett | Australian Tropical Herbarium / James Cook University

Reproduced with permission from Matthew Barrett

Project description:

Arum lilies of the genus Typhonium sensu lato include about 35 species in tropical and subtropical Australia, including more than 15 undescribed species. Typhonium are examples of entrapment pollination, whereby insects are enticed to a food decoy by a scent of dead meat or rotting vegetables, hence ‘dead horse lilies’. Pollinators have been recently studied intensively, but the contribution of pollinator-driven speciation is poorly understood. The robust family tree produced by this project will allow interpretation of the contribution of pollinator specialisation to speciation. They emerge quickly from underground bulbs, flower for just a few days, and are poorly collected.

Most Australian species are range restricted, substrate specialised and some are threatened by agriculture or development. Species frequently co-occur, new species are frequent, and identification can take years growing plants cultivation. DNA barcoding is possible, but can be confounded by occasional hybridisation, poor resolution, multiple gene-copies, and possibly polyploidy. Typhonium is one of the most critical plant groups requiring a DNA identification methodology in Australia, given the impracticality of obtaining fertile material, and economic impacts, which can be delivered by the Angiosperms353 methodology of the GAP-AATOL project.